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Fewer Medication Errors with Telemedicine Consultations

November 25, 2013
by Gabriel Perna
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Researchers recently concluded that pediatric critical care telemedicine consultations led to a reduced risk of physician-related emergency department (ED) medication errors among seriously ill and injured children in rural EDs.  

The researchers, led by Madan Dharmar, Ph.D, lead author and from the University of California Davis Children's Hospital in Sacramento, looked at 234 patients for the study, 73 of whom received telemedicine consultations. The others either received telephone consultations or no specialist consultations at all. 

What they found was patients who received telemedicine consultations had significantly fewer physician-related errors than medications for patients who received telephone consultations or no consultations (3.4 percent for telemedicine consultations vs. 10.8 percent for phone consultations and 12.5 percent for none).

In an interview with Reuters, senior author of the study, James P. Marcin, M.D., said the difference between a phone and a telemedicine consultation was huge. "It's the difference between the doctor coming in to do an office visit with you with his or her eyes closed, versus with his or her eyes open,” he said.

For the stuedy, the researchers looked at the retrospective chart reviews on seriously ill and injured children presenting to eight  rural EDs with access to pediatric critical care physicians from an academic children’s hospital.

“We wanted to look at medication errors and see how telemedicine consultations impacted those rates, compared to telephone consultations or no consultations at all.” Dharmar said in a statement. “We know that having a specialist treat children lowers the risk of medication errors. However, no one had ever studied whether specialists could use telemedicine to have the same effect.”

The study recently appeared in an issue of Pediatrics.

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