Purpose: The aim of this study was to measure both satisfaction and comfort levels and estimates of cost savings of families with children receiving health care services from a distant pediatric tertiary care center by readily available telecommunications technologies.
Methods: From February 1996 to September 1997, 140 children at a site 840 miles from the tertiary care center were seen during an evaluative trial of telemedicine consultations (TMC). The TMC visit was the initial encounter with the tertiary care specialist for 31 children. After consultation, each family was asked to complete an anonymous quality management survey that asked for estimates of cost savings and assessed their level of comfort and satisfaction with 13 other aspects of the TMC encounter. A 3- or 5-point Likert scale was used for each question. Comfort scores before and after each consultation were compared by chi2 analysis. Logistic regression was used to determine the independent predictors of satisfaction.
Results: 104 of the 140 (74%) families responded. Mean patient estimated cost savings was $1,318+/-677. The highest level of comfort was noted by 58% of respondents before TMC and by 77% after (P = .005). On a 5-point scale, 71% scored 5 (completely satisfied). None scored less than 3. The independent statistically significant predictors of satisfaction were concerns about privacy, comfort with the camera, and perceived specialist comfort.
Conclusions: In addition to providing financial savings, TMC is well accepted by families and children. Those using this new technology must give special attention to issues of patient privacy, camera comfort, and specialist comfort.