The program will provide clinicians at rural hospitals round-the-clock access to neonatologists and other subspecialists through the use of UC Davis’ award-winning secure videoconferencing capabilities.
Four hospitals in California were selected to launch the PEANUT project because they are in rural counties serving health-professional shortage areas and medically underserved areas, said Madan Dharmar, assistant research professor in the UC Davis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Telemedicine Program.
“Telemedicine has been an important part of UC Davis Children’s Hospital’s efforts to improve access to pediatric care for more than a decade,” said Dharmar, the principal investigator for the PEANUT Program. “Our goal is to extend essential subspecialist expertise to medically underserved areas, which should lead to higher quality and more cost-effective care.”
“Rural doctors and hospitals deliver great care. But they have limited access to pediatric subspecialists. Without subspecialty guidance, newborn infants may be undertreated, receive inappropriate therapies or face unnecessary transfers. By providing immediate access to neonatologists, and other pediatric experts, PEANUT will provide a safety net for rural clinicians and their patients,” Dharmar said.
For example, increasing access to pediatric cardiologists will help rural hospitals follow new guidelines for identifying infants with congenital heart disease, and also will help avoid unnecessary neonatal transfers if physicians rule out the condition in advance.
In addition to providing multi-disciplinary neonatal care, the PEANUT Program also will enhance access to ongoing medical education for physicians, nurses and other hospital staff. The program will assist hospitals with implementing new state and national care standards, such as the Critical Congenital Heart Disease Screening Program, by providing training for rural hospital technologists in neonatal echocardiography. In addition, healthcare providers in rural nurseries will be trained on techniques and standards for emergency care for newborns.
“The PEANUT Program will give our rural communities immediate access to the pediatric subspecialists they need to do their jobs well,” said Robin Steinhorn, chair of the Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief for UC Davis Children’s Hospital. “We view this program as an important step in delivering high-quality and cost-effective care throughout California.”
In addition to reducing rural disparities in care, the PEANUT program will study the long-term impact of these telemedicine interventions on neonatal outcomes, as well as the cost-effectiveness of these efforts.
James P. Marcin, director of the UC Davis Children’s Hospital Pediatric Telemedicine Program; Robin H. Steinhorn, chair, Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief, UC Davis Children’s Hospital; and Byung Kwang (BK) Yoo, associate professor, Department of Public Health Sciences, are the grant’s co-investigators.