Background: Geographic information systems (GIS) mapping is fairly novel in describing utilization of health services. Our study is the first to use GIS to demonstrate that telehealth pediatric specialty service access would create substantial savings in travel time and distance compared with accessing a tertiary-care center for similar service.

Materials and Methods: A retrospective chart review of telehealth encounters and geocoding of patients' address were done with actual travel along road calculations to estimate travel time and distance for a visit, compared with a hypothetical visit to the nearest tertiary-care site for the similar service.

Results: Over a 2-year period, 255 telehealth visits by 171 patients with a variety of developmental and behavioral diagnoses were made to five telehealth sites. The median travel time and distance saved by accessing a telehealth site were 66.9 min and 63.8 miles, respectively. Of these patients, 12.3% had a median negative estimated savings of 52.7 min and 39.0 miles, which was associated with longer travel burden. Using the straight-line method underestimated the total time and distance traveled by approximately one-quarter of the actual distance (median distance of 20.5 miles underestimate relative to the median distance of 100.7 miles).

Conclusions: Telehealth patients experienced significant reduction in travel times and distances. Patients/families would accept an increased burden of spatial accessibility in exchange for reduced burdens in other aspects of access, such as accommodation or acceptability when engaging telehealth services. Using a road network-based method is more accurate than previously used straight-line methods in calculating distance impedance.

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Published in Telemedicine and e-Health, v. 19, no. 4, p. 585-590.

This is a copy of an article published in the Telemedicine and e-Health (c), 2013, copyright Mary Ann Liebert, Inc.; Telemedicine and e-Health is available online at: http://online.liebertpub.com.

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