Shannon Medical Center has partnered with Cook Children’s Medical Center in Fort Worth to connect pediatric patients to telemedicine care.
Meeting a need based on geographical location, the two hospitals announced Tuesday a “first-of-its-kind program” that will allow Shannon physicians to consult with a variety of board-certified pediatric specialists from Cook about diagnoses and treatment plans.
Usually when babies need a higher level of care they need more than one type of specialist, said Bryan Horner, president and CEO of Shannon. When Shannon’s pediatricians need to consult with specialists in cardiology or orthopedics, they can do so via telemedicine with Cook, Horner said during a live demonstration Tuesday at Shannon’s Women and Children’s Hospital.
This project, funded by the Children’s Miracle Network at Shannon, uses a telemedicine unit to transmit information over a secure Wi-Fi connection and works much like Skype, Horner said. Specialists can see patients in real-time using a portable camera attached to a desktop screen and discuss a patient’s X-rays alongside Shannon’s physicians.
“We have here at Shannon nine board-certified pediatricians that are actually highly trained to take care of sick babies, but there comes a time when we need a super specialist like a neonatologist, a pediatric cardiologist, a pediatric geneticist, a pediatric surgeon, and we don’t have that in San Angelo because of the size of the city,” said Doug Schultz, Shannon Clinic’s chief medical officer.
By partnering with Cook, Shannon will be able to consult and use the technology in real-time to help patients and create care plans, he said.
“In addition, the families will be able to meet and talk with the Cook’s physicians, which I think will help make the families feel better about what’s going on and know we’re are trying to achieve the best possible care here at Shannon,” Schultz said.
Dr. Darryl Miao from Cook, who is board certified in neonatal-perinatal medicine and is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics, joined the live demonstration via the telemedicine unit.
“I think this is really great; it allows us to help (Shannon’s physicians) to keep the babies there and close to family,” he said, noting that if the babies have to travel to Cook the families already will have established a relationship with their specialist through the telemedicine unit.
Miao said this is the first time Cook has used this type of technology to reach out to other hospitals.
“We are in talks with several other hospitals as well to try to expand Cook Children’s ability to help support other hospitals,” he said.
Schultz and Miao agreed that using this type of everyday technology will reduce the number of patients needing to be taken to a higher level facility for care.
About 20 infants per year are transported out for care for various reasons, but that number goes up and down each year, Schultz said.
Because this unit is portable, Schultz said, it could be used in other areas of the hospital such as the ER.
Another possibility would to to use it in the delivery room before a baby is born because sometimes physicians know in advance when a baby is going to have a problem at birth. A specialist could be in the room, ready to help with any problems, he said.
“I’ve never had that scenario before; I think that’s pretty exciting,” Schultz said.