NEWS | May 9, 2019

Telemedicine brings care closer to pediatric patients in rural communities

UC Davis Health's telehealth program is first of its kind in the US


UC Davis Children’s Hospital prides itself on providing the best possible care to children and families in the Sacramento region – even if those families can’t make it to the hospital. 

James Marcin James Marcin

About 85% of the region the hospital serves is rural. And while families may be able to find primary care close to home, specialty care is often scarce. To get specialized care for their children, many families are turning to innovations like telehealth – remote consultation through video or audio.

UC Davis Health is a national leader in telehealth with more than 25 years of experience. The UC Davis Pediatric Telemedicine Program is the first of its kind in the country, connecting more than 100 different hospitals and clinics in California and serving 2,800 patients per year.

James Marcin directs the Center for Health and Technology at UC Davis Health. He also leads the Division of Pediatric Critical Care Medicine at UC Davis Children’s Hospital. Marcin answered questions that many parents ask.

Q: When is telemedicine a good option?

A: Any time a patient or parent or family member needs help from a medical provider, we should all be considering telemedicine. We are using it for checkups after operations, follow-up appointments after a patient is released from the hospital and for other medical questions. We’re only limited if a health care provider needs to do a hands-on evaluation or procedure. 

Q: What do you tell a parent who is worried you might “miss something” because you’re not seeing a child in person?

A: We never want to force anyone to do telemedicine. First and foremost, we want high-quality care. If the provider or physician feels that he/she needs to see the patient in person, or if the patient wants to be able to talk to or show the provider in person, then we do not use telemedicine.

Q: How has telemedicine changed since UC Davis Health started its program 25 years ago?

A: We started to provide outpatient specialty visits 25 years ago to many rural and underserved communities. While we have continued to provide this service, the technologies and telecommunications have become much improved and much less expensive. As a result, we are implementing models of care that were never considered 25 years ago. We are providing more clinical services directly to patients over personal phones and tablets. We are passively monitoring patients and their medical devices in our remote patient monitoring program. We are providing on-demand emergency and critical care services, such as our tele-stroke program and pediatric tele-emergency program.

Q: How can a parent get the most out of telemedicine?

A: More and more, we are pushing models of care that have the providers coming to the patient, rather than the patient coming to the providers. Patients all over California are demanding access to on-demand video visits on their mobile device. We are helping to realize this. If you or your children do not need to physically come to the clinic or hospital, we want to have the nurse or doctor come to you.

Related links

Learn more about the UC Davis Pediatric Telemedicine Program
Sac&Co. interview with James Marcin about pediatric telehealth 
New pediatric tele-physiatry program helps children in rural and underserved communities
The doctor is logged in
Telemedicine saves patients time, money
How video collaboration between hospitals improves patient care