Using Telehealth for Assessment of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome

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Telemedicine journal and e-health : the official journal of the American Telemedicine Association,16(8): 872-877.

Telehealth provides a wide range of medical services for rural and remote communities.  Since 1999, telehealth has been utilized for the assessment of fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASD).  This study evaluates the FASD telehealth program with The Pas/Flin Flon and Norway House, rural and remote Northern communities in Manitoba.  Between 2005 and 2009 a total of 41 FASD sessions have been held with the two communities.  Semi-structured interviews (n=26) were conducted with professionals from the two communities.  Two primary themes that emerged during analysis illustrate the participants’ experiences of using telehealth for a FASD assessment.  The first theme suggests the benefits of a FASD assessment via telehealth (i.e., assessment in the child’s community, low cost, and reduced stress) outweigh the drawbacks (i.e., frustration with technology, medicalized language, and difficulty accessing translation services if needed).  The second theme presents suggestions for development (i.e., dedicated child friendly space, welcoming environment, technology improvements, improvement in methods for the physical examination portion of the assessment).  Findings propose FASD assessment via telehealth in the identified communities are beneficial; yet require further development for full use.

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