UC Davis receives $2M AHRQ grant to bring telemedicine to children with disabilities

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The pediatrics department at Sacramento-based UC Davis Health received a $2 million grant from HHS' Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to study whether a telemedicine program will improve quality of care for children with disabilities, the hospital announced Nov. 15.

The five-year grant will fund the School-Based Tele-Physiatry Assistance for Rehabilitative and Therapeutic Services program. The STARS program focuses on physiatry care, or non-surgical physical medicine and rehabilitation services, for children with disabilities like cerebral palsy, spina bifida and spinal cord injuries.

Under the grant, UC Davis Health will install teleconferencing equipment in schools in remote California communities that might lack specialized physicians. Trained physiatrists will then be able to remotely conduct screening assessments and write appropriate prescriptions and referrals for children in need of physical therapy, medications or braces, among other interventions.

"The goal of the STARS program is to broaden our reach," said Loren Davidson, MD, associate clinical professor and chief of pediatric rehabilitation at UC Davis Health. "We're geographically limited based on the distance from the medical center and how many staff we have to send out. We're trying to bridge the provider gap through telemedicine, trying to reach these underserved communities."

The grant will also support UC Davis Health's research into the effectiveness of telemedicine services. The researchers will compare the outcomes of physiatrists who provide care in person, non-physiatrists who provide care in person and physiatrists who provide care via telemedicine.

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