Pediatric patients no longer have to make a six-hour trip from Tallahassee to UF Health Shands Hospital to see a physician.

By using telemedicine, a video conference, Shands physicians are able to conduct visits with patients from miles away, said Christopher Jolley, the chief of the division of pediatric gastroenterology at Shands. Jolley said certain offices began using the program over the summer.

The telemedicine option is currently available at the Children’s Medical Services building in Tallahassee, Jolley said.

“It was really an effort to improve patient care for this community and be more accessible and more available for the Tallahassee community,” Jolley said.

Jolley said it is more cost-effective because it reduces travel for both families and the medical team.

Shands physicians from several specialities make trips to Tallahassee monthly to visit with patients, he said. Some subspecialties, such as gastroenterology and hematology, have already started the telemedicine initiative while others will be joining it soon.

“It’s also important to realize that some of these families have children with very complex medical needs, and traveling 2 1/2 hours for them is a lot more detailed and a lot more cumbersome than it would be for other families,” Jolley said.

Previously, telemedicine was limited due to the lack of guidelines and lesser technology, Jolley said. As technology improved and it became regulated, the practice spread.

Telemedicine has been successful at other UF Health locations, like in Daytona Beach, where it has been used to manage patients with diabetes, Jolley said.

UF Health’s goal is to grow the practice and make it commonplace, Jolley said.

“Our plan is to expand our availability to the Tallahassee community, and telemedicine is just one way of doing this,” Jolley said.

Christine Bohling’s 10-year-old son had been a patient of Jolley’s for some time. During a spring appointment, Jolley asked the family if they would be interested in the telemedicine option. Bohling said it was a convenient option.

“We would have to go to Gainesville a few times a year,” the Tallahassee resident said. “It was just really inconvenient traveling all the way to Gainesville and having to take off of work.”

Bohling, 31, and her son have participated in one telemedicine clinical visit with Jolley so far. Bohling said she liked how they were still able to have a one-on-one experience with the doctor, and nurses were present at the hospital in Tallahassee to administer to her son.

“Just limiting travel time, which puts a stress on (my son), and making it more convenient than having to travel Gainesville has really helped,” she said.