Telehealth just as good as in-person visits for pediatric obesity patients

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Pediatric obesity patients were more satisfied with telehealth visits than in-person visits, and found they were just as effective, a pilot program conducted by the University of California at Los Angeles determined.

Four out of five pediatric patients who participated in the study expressed satisfaction with their telehealth appointment, saying it was just as good as speaking with a doctor in person, according to an announcement from UCLA. It was easier, the patients said, to attend appointments at their local clinic as opposed to the UCLA campus; what's more, participants said they felt comfortable and that their privacy was protected.

For the program, researchers with the Fit for Healthy Weight program, UCLA, the Venice Family Clinic and the Los Angeles Unified School District implemented an encrypted telehealth system for 45 patients with an average age of 10, that enabled them to visit their local clinic for care. After having their vitals recorded by a medical assistant and a primary care physician, the patients underwent a telehealth meeting with a specialist who was located at the Fit for Healthy Weight building.

"One surprise was how natural it was to talk with each other through the telehealth system, even though we never met the patients in person," lead author Wendy Slusser, medical director of the Fit for Healthy Weight program at Mattel Children's Hospital UCLA, said, speaking at a Southern California Public Health Association conference on Dec. 9. "The interaction was very much like being in the same room together. Some kids even thought it was fun to see themselves on the screen."

The average baseline BMI of the patients was in the 98th percentile, and over time, 86 percent of the 25 patients who were followed after their telehealth appointments stabilized or decreased their BMI scores Three of the four patients with high blood pressure entering the program normalized their BP figures.

A pair of separate studies recently published out of northern Canada and Taiwan indicate that telehealth is an effective tool in self-management of chronic disease, including diabetes.

Another recent study, published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice, showed that telemedicine helps patients with Parkinson's disease better manage symptoms of their disease. The study's authors said that their telehealth approach also could work for management of chronic conditions including autism, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure.

Meanwhile, a research trial in Germany indicated that automatic wireless monitoring is an effective way to monitor chronic heart-failure patients at home and improve care.

To learn more:
- read the announcement from UCLA

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