Telemedicine is as effective as in-person visits for patients with asthma

Portnoy, J.M. et al. (2016) Annals of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, 117(3), pp. 241-245

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Background: Access to asthma specialists is a problem, particularly in rural areas, thus presenting an opportunity for management using telemedicine.

Objective: To compare asthma outcomes during 6 months in children managed by telemedicine vs in-person visits.

Methods: Children with asthma residing in 2 remote locations were offered the choice of an in-person visit or a telemedicine session at a local clinic. The telemedicine process involved real-time use of a Remote Presence Solution (RPS) equipped with a digital stethoscope, otoscope, and high-resolution camera. A telefacilitator operated the RPS and performed diagnostic and educational procedures, such as spirometry and asthma education. Children in both groups were assessed initially, after 30 days, and at 6 months. Asthma outcome measures included asthma control using validated tools (Asthma Control Test, Childhood Asthma Control Test, and Test for Respiratory and Asthma Control in Kids) and patient satisfaction (telemedicine group only). Noninferiority analysis of asthma control was performed using the minimally important difference of an adjusted asthma control test that combined the 3 age groups.

Results: Of 169 children, 100 were seen in-person and 69 via telemedicine. A total of 34 in-person and 40 telemedicine patients completed all 3 visits. All had a small, although statistically insignificant, improvement in asthma control over time. Telemedicine was noninferior to in-person visits. Most of the telemedicine group subjects were satisfied with their experience.

Conclusion: Children with asthma seen by telemedicine or in-person visits can achieve comparable degrees of asthma control. Telemedicine can be a viable alternative to traditional in-person physician-based care for the treatment and management of asthma.

Read the abstract here

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