New Telemedicine Center Serves Indigent Children in L.A.
Last Friday, officials opened Los Angeles County's first pediatric telemedicine center, a clinic that will care for low-income patients with the help of video cameras and computers, the Los Angeles Times reports. The Mary Henry Telemedicine Center, which is located in South-Central Los Angeles, will be staffed by a physician's assistant or resident medical student who will perform initial examinations. Children in need of immediate care will be transported by shuttle to nearby Martin Luther King Jr./Drew Medical Center. Patients who need to consult a specialist, however, can have their injuries or conditions transmitted to a doctor in another part of town via a video camera hooked up to a computer. The assistant can also provide commentary on the patient's condition. Dr. Charles Flowers, an eye surgeon and an assistant professor of ophthalmology at the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine, said, "Instead of taking the bus, patients can walk down the block to the clinic. Instead of a patient coming to me, I can come to the patient." Doctors believe that asthma, lead poisoning and nutritional deficiencies will be the most common problems seen at the clinic. Xylina Bean of the Department of Pediatrics at King/Drew Medical Center said that she hopes to offer immunizations at the center. Officials speculate that "poor" neighborhoods with few doctors will benefit from the new technology because it will reduce the time spent by patients and their parents in waiting rooms.
Telemedicine clinics date back to 1995, when the federal government awarded grants to implement such facilities in rural areas. Flowers, who is "leading the introduction of telemedicine clinics throughout the county," studied the South-Central area and decided a pediatric center "was the next logical move." The clinic, a joint effort between Los Angeles County and the Drew University School of Medicine, has received funding from half a dozen grants, including $800,000 from HHS and $500,000 from the not-for-profit California Telehealth and Telemedicine Center in Sacramento. The county has spent $1.6 million on its telemedicine program since 1996, Flowers said. The clinic will initially be open on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. It is named for Mary Henry, a children's advocate and a three-term member of the Compton school board (Schwartz, Los Angeles Times, 12/3).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.