Making Care Accessible Everywhere
The high fever is what made Erin Wallner worry. When she took her daughter’s temperature and saw 102 degrees of the thermometer, she knew this was far more than a run-of-the-mill cold.
But the thought of loading 10-year-old Allie into the car and sitting in a doctor’s office waiting room with the sick little girl was really unappealing, especially with a sibling in tow. That is when Wallner remembered Nemours CareConnect, an app she had downloaded onto her iPad. With a few clicks, she and Allie were holding an online doctor visit with a Nemours board-certified pediatrician, all through the tablet and from the comfort of the sofa in their family living room.
Within 15 minutes, the doctor from Nemours had diagnosed Allie with the flu and called in a prescription to a pharmacy a few miles away. “Nemours CareConnect made a stressful time so much easier,” said Wallner. “The doctor was wonderful and I think I had the same level of care we would have received in the office, but with even greater convenience.”
BROADENING THE REACH
Nemours was among the first pediatric health systems in the country to deploy this sort of direct-to-consumer telehealth app. But the organization is not limiting its use of telehealth to families inside the home. CareConnect also brings Nemours specialists into affiliated hospitals, cruise ships, schools, and it connects providers throughout Nemours’ multi-state enterprise.
“Across the country, many families struggle to access pediatric specialists. At Nemours, we employ hundreds of physicians and see telehealth as a way to help more families receive the care they need, when they need it,” said Carey Officer, administrator of telehealth for Nemours.
Nemours is affiliated with six hospitals in Central Florida, each one with a CareConnect console. The technology allows Nemours specialists to see and interact with patients at these remote community hospitals.
The value of this innovative approach became crystal clear during last fall’s Hurricane Matthew. A child at an affiliated hospital desperately needed to be seen by a geneticist, but the winds were too high to safely transport the child, even by ambulance. CareConnect enabled the specialist at Nemours to assess the child remotely and provide guidance to the care team at the child’s bedside, ensuring there was no delay in providing needed care.
“This was an urgent situation and the technology was essential to making sure this child with a complex condition received the appropriate care in that moment,” said Shayan Vyas, MD, medical director for Nemours CareConnect. “Telehealth provided an added level of communication that wouldn’t be possible with a simple phone call.”
After the winds slowed, CareConnect also helped the transport team from Nemours ensure they had every detail necessary to safely get the child to the specialist.
POSSIBILITIES ARE LIMITLESS
Soon, Nemours will begin using CareConnect to assist pregnant women with high-risk pregnancies. The mothers-to-be can have ultrasounds performed at an affiliated hospital and read in real time by a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Nemours, allowing the women to receive specialized care without leaving their home community.
The technology could also appear on your next vacation. A popular cruise line has CareConnect consoles in the medical services area of its ships to bring Nemours pediatric expertise on board should a child need it.
In the fall of 2016, Nemours expanded CareConnect into school nurses’ offices. Morning Star Catholic School, which serves children in Orlando with special needs, became the first school in Florida to use Nemours CareConnect. With the click of a button, nurses are able to bring a board-certified pediatrician into the office for an online doctor visit.
“With this technology, fewer parents have needed to leave work to take a sick child to the doctor,” said Sandy Cooney, principal of Morning Star Catholic School. “It has been enormously popular with our families.”
Nurses at Morning Star can use tools such as a stethoscope that allows the doctor to hear a student’s heartbeat and lungs, or an otoscope that can look into the ear or a dermacam that produces clear images of skin. The information is transmitted to the doctor in real time.
School nurses also have the ability to include families in online doctor visits. Parents simply open the CareConnect app on their mobile device and participate as if they were in the same room. A report is sent to the child’s primary care physician when possible.
Since Nemours specialists are located in 60 locations in five states, telehealth is helping connect children with the specialist who has the most expertise in the child’s condition.
When an imaging exam in radiology is loaded into the Nemours system for evaluation, specific exam types and body parts scanned are electronically routed to the subspecialized pediatric radiologist best suited to interpret that exam, regardless of where the particular radiologist is physically located. Thanks to this teleradiology system, when a head CT is entered into the system, it is sent to the pediatric neuroradiologist more than 80 percent of the time.
“With over 30 pediatric radiologists, many of whom are trained in subspecialty areas such as pediatric neuroradiology, pediatric nuclear medicine, and pediatric musculoskeletal imaging, Nemours has one of the largest pediatric radiology groups in the nation. Telehealth allows us to truly leverage all of that deep expertise to ensure each exam is interpreted in a timely fashion by an expert pediatric radiologist, which is unique in radiology,” said Dan Podberesky, radiologist in chief for Nemours Children’s Health System.
All of the effort is generating interest and awards within the healthcare industry.
In December 2016, Nemours CareConnect was selected as a Digital Edge 50 Award winner by CIO, a content resource for technology executives. Award recipients were selected by a distinguished panel of industry experts and business and technology executives whose focus is recognizing technology that drives greater customer engagement.
In October, 2016, the Florida Hospital Association named Nemours CareConnect the “Innovation of the Year in Patient Care.”
“These awards are important recognition, but what is most important to the Nemours team is the feedback we’re receiving from our patient families,” said Officer. “A er nearly two years of offering CareConnect to consumers, 97 percent told us they were ‘highly satisfied’ with the service. For me, that’s the best possible recognition.” ◆