Telemedicine for children with developmental disabilities: a more effective clinical process than office-based care

Telemed J E Health. 2015 Feb;21(2):110-4. doi: 10.1089/tmj.2013.0379. Epub 2014 Dec 29.


Background: The literature on the use of telemedicine for children with developmental disabilities (DD) is limited and mostly describes telemedicine being used to link patients with distant subspecialty multidisciplinary care. Parents generally have reported satisfaction with such care and have perceived it to be equally effective as in-person care. Here we report on the use of school-based asynchronous telemedicine to connect children with DD with primary care providers.

Materials and methods: We developed Tele-Health-Kids, a school-based program using asynchronous telemedicine to connect children with DD with their primary care physician for the care of minor illnesses. We surveyed parents at enrollment and after the child's first telemedicine visit to assess satisfaction. We describe 4 cases that illustrate benefits, particularly for children with DD and challenging behaviors, suggesting that asynchronous telemedicine may actually be superior to traditional in-office visits in some circumstances.

Results: Most parents expressed a high level of satisfaction with the program. Benefits identified include decreased stress to the child and the parents as well as increasing the likelihood of a successful medical examination due to greater cooperation by the child. Visits using asynchronous or "store and forward" telemedicine technology may be superior in some situations by allowing the visit to be performed at a pace that can be adjusted to the needs of the child with DD.

Conclusions: More research in the use of asynchronous telemedicine for children and youth with DD, particularly for children with DD and challenging behaviors, is needed.

Keywords: behavioral health; pediatrics; telehealth; telemedicine.

Publication types

  • Case Reports
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Child
  • Child Health Services / economics
  • Child Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Comorbidity
  • Developmental Disabilities / psychology
  • Developmental Disabilities / rehabilitation*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Ohio
  • Parents / education
  • Parents / psychology*
  • Patient Satisfaction*
  • Rural Health Services / economics
  • Rural Health Services / organization & administration
  • School Health Services / economics
  • School Health Services / organization & administration*
  • Telemedicine / economics
  • Telemedicine / methods
  • Telemedicine / organization & administration*
  • Transportation / economics
  • Transportation / methods