Eur J Pediatr. 2021 Jul 1:1-12. doi: 10.1007/s00431-021-04164-2. Online ahead of print.
Children with medical complexity (CMC) are a high priority population with chronic illnesses dependent on the use of health services, on technological systems to support their vital functions and characterized by multiple health needs. One of the main challenges linked to chronic conditions is finding solutions to monitor CMC at home, avoiding re-hospitalization and the onset of complications. Telemedicine enables to remotely follow up patients and families. An integrative review was performed to assess whether telemedicine improves health outcomes for CMC. Medline/PubMed, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, Web of Science, and Scopus were searched to identify studies describing the effect of using telemedicine systems on health outcomes for CMC. The PRISMA guidelines were used to select the papers. The methodological quality of the studies was evaluated through the Johanna Briggs Institute critical appraisal tools and the Cochrane Collaboration ROB 2.0. A total of 17 papers met the quality criteria and were included. Specialized telemedicine systems (tele-visits), telehealth, and tele-monitoring have been reported to reduce unplanned hospitalizations and visits, decrease total costs for healthcare services and families, and increase satisfaction for family members. No effect was found on the quality of life in children and their families.Conclusion: Available evidence supporting the use of telemedicine in CMC is favorable but limited. High-quality methodological studies including other unexplored health outcomes such as mental health, hospital readmissions, mortality, caregiver competences, and self-efficacy are needed to confirm the effectiveness of telemedicine systems in improving health outcomes for CMC. What is Known: • CMC are an extremely fragile patient population with frequent access to healthcare services compared with other chronic conditions. • There is conflicting evidence of the effectiveness of telemedicine clinical outcomes, healthcare utilization, and costs in pediatrics. What is New: • There is some evidence that for CMC, telemedicine reduces unplanned hospitalizations, healthcare service costs, and financial burden for families, while increasing caregivers’ satisfaction with care. • Further research is needed to confirm the effectiveness of telemedicine systems in improving health for CMC.