UM-Flint professors receive $468K NIH grant to research pediatric telehealth

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A young woman sick on the couch checking her temperature with a doctor on a laptop screen on the table
UM-Flint faculty members Gergana Kodjebacheva and Charlotte Tang have received a $468,000 grant from the National Institutes of Health to research telehealth usage in teens.

Faculty in the disciplines of public health and computer science at the University of Michigan-Flint are teaming up to enhance telehealth services for adolescents. 

The groundbreaking research of Gergana Kodjebacheva, associate professor of public health, in collaboration with Charlotte Tang, associate professor of computer science, has recently received significant recognition and support through a Research Enhancement Award from the National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development. The prestigious grant, totaling $468,000, acknowledges the importance of their project in investigating strategies to enhance telehealth from the unique perspectives of adolescents.

The prior work of of Kodjebacheva and Tang has highlighted the advantages of telehealth in improving access to health care services, particularly for marginalized populations, while also underscoring the challenges, such as socioeconomic barriers and technological limitations. Adolescents expressed a preference for technologically enhanced experiences and education in published research.

Through their collaboration, Kodjebacheva and Tang will explore the perspectives of adolescents aged 14 to 17 in Genesee County. The study seeks to learn more about adolescent views on the benefits, challenges and enhancements of telehealth.

Gergana Kodjebacheva

"Adolescents will discuss their suggestions for making video visits more personable and private during interviews. They will offer recommendations for developing trust and comfort with the health care provider. Both adolescents who have used telehealth in the past and those who have not used it will discuss their perspectives, offering valuable insights to improve health care access," said Kodjebacheva, principal investigator of the study. "An outcome of the research is to grow our understanding of how to deliver telehealth to adolescents overall and by socio-economic group. The recommendations developed through the research can contribute to developing new and improved communication technologies, saving health care costs through prevention and treatment of health problems with the use of remote care, and decreasing health disparities."

The involvement of UM-Flint student researchers underscores the project's commitment to fostering interdisciplinary collaboration and community engagement. These talented students will play a vital role in all stages of the research while gaining invaluable experience and opportunities for professional growth.

Through their innovative approach and dedication to understanding adolescent perspectives, Kodjebacheva and Tang hope to pave the way for a more inclusive and effective telehealth system, ultimately benefiting communities of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds.

Charlotte Tang

"Offering telehealth services tailored to adolescents can empower them to take control of their own health and become more proactive about seeking health care when needed," said Tang. "Providing adolescents with access to reliable health information and resources through telehealth platforms can help them become more informed and engaged in managing their health. This research grant has a great potential in helping bridge gaps in health care access, improve health outcomes, and promote overall well-being during this critical stage of development for adolescents."

The abstract for 1R15HD114022-01, "Benefits of, challenges with, and suggestions for improving pediatric telehealth: The perspectives of adolescents," can be viewed online.

Daba Coura Mbow is a communications intern in the Office of Research and Development. She can be reached at [email protected].