Children’s Health in a Digital World: Opportunities & Challenges in Pediatric Telehealth

By: Ielnaz Kashefipour, The Children’s Partnership

On February 27th, policymakers, physicians, payers, families, healthcare advocates, and legislative staff packed the Rotunda Room at the California Dental Association building for a policy briefing on pediatric telehealth. Co-sponsored by The Children’s Partnership, the Children’s Specialty Care Coalition, the California Children’s Hospital Association, Family Voices of California, and the American Academy of Pediatrics-CA, the lunch briefing was convened to educate policymakers about the importance of telehealth in delivering, and improving access to, specialty care for California’s children and adolescents. The briefing particularly highlighted the importance of telehealth for children with special health care needs or chronic conditions; children living in rural, and also urban areas of the state; and care delivered in clinical and also non-clinical settings, such as the patient’s home. Together, we explored the implications for access and health outcomes for children; cost savings for the state; and the barriers and opportunities for the future adoption of pediatric telehealth.

The briefing kicked off with the inaugural presentation of a 7-minute educational video featuring seven innovative telehealth programs across the state. From hospitals and clinics in San Diego, Orange County, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa, the physicians interviewed described why and how their telehealth programs began, how they evolved, and how telehealth has made a difference in improving care for their pediatric patients.

Two of the physicians featured in the video also participated in the briefing to share their programs and experiences in person. The conversations were both insightful and moving. By the end of the first panel, there was not a dry eye in the room, as Dr. Pooja Mittal, a family physician and parent, shared her daughters’ story, and Shannon Raber, an Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner from UCSF’s Neuro-Oncology Clinic, shared her patients’, Sean and Jacob’s, stories.

Complementing the providers’ perspectives panel, a second panel centered on current telehealth payment methodologies and policies. The panel explored some of the challenges California must overcome in order to build an effective telehealth system that addresses the needs of California’s children. To further explore telehealth policies in California, Cynthia Smiley, Chief of the Benefits Division at the California Department of Health Care Services (DHCS), presented on the Department’s oversight of telehealth policy, as well as key considerations as DHCS develops its 2018 Update on telehealth coverage and payment rules under both Medi-Cal and the California Children’s Services (CCS) and Genetically Handicapped Persons Program (GHPP).

Building on the policy briefing, TCP is putting conversations into action by partnering with Assembly Member Sharon Quirk-Silva, a children’s health champion, to develop legislation that will enhance the inclusion of telehealth in schools.

In addition, in the coming months, we will release our School and Child Care-Based Telehealth Roadmap for Action, which will serve as a guidebook for communities, practitioners, and advocates in California and across the country interested in launching or expanding school and child care based telehealth programs. See our last blog post for more information on the Roadmap and our school based telehealth work.

The briefing was broadcast via Facebook Live, and the full recording and briefing slides are available here. Follow our progress by visiting us at @KidsPartnership on Twitter and Facebook.

 

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