When something happens to your child, it feels like the world should come to a standstill. You want every person, every resource and every tool possible to care for them.
Thanks to a new partnership with Children’s Minnesota, one of the largest and most regarded pediatric health systems in the country, Lakewood can now deliver more resources and expertise when caring for children.
Through a new virtual health partnership, emergency department (ED) physicians at Lakewood’s main campus now have 24/7 access to Children’s wide range of pediatric specialists. Using audio/video technology, which allows the Children’s physician to gain a better idea of the clinical concern, the Lakewood physician can hold a virtual consultation with Children’s Minnesota. From there, physicians from each system may discuss a diagnosis, treatment options, or whether the patient needs to be transferred to Children’s for further care.
“The bottom line is that this partnership will allow more of our patients to get the care they need without the cost and time of traveling to the Twin Cities,” explained Kimberly Bryniarski, Quality Improvement Manager at Lakewood. “In fact, about half the patients who were sent to Children’s Minnesota in 2016 could have stayed at Lakewood if the virtual partnership had been an available resource.”
When deemed appropriate, the Lakewood ED physician places a call to Children’s Minnesota and requests a virtual consultation. Shortly thereafter, a pediatric emergency medicine physician at Children’s will connect via video conference with the Lakewood provider. There is no extra cost to the patient’s family.
Some examples of an emergency room visit that may require a virtual consultation include an unidentifiable rash, pneumonia-like symptoms, an allergic reaction or a mild trauma case.
“The ability of the Children’s Minnesota physician to see the patient is very important,” said Bryniarski. “It helps determine whether the child should be sent down to Children’s or whether Lakewood should try a course of treatment first. And if the patient ultimately needs to be admitted to Children’s, the registration process will be faster because Lakewood will have shared the required registration information with Children’s.”
“A picture is worth 1,000 words”
For Lakewood physicians, the virtual health partnership is a way to better serve area families. “We want to take excellent care of these kids, and we will send them to Children’s Minnesota if we can’t fully serve them at Lakewood,” said Dr. Ryan Kroll, a Lakewood Family Medicine Physician. “This partnership is especially useful for those questionable cases where the patient is stable, but we’re on the fence about whether we should transfer them to Children’s or if they can stay at Lakewood. By allowing the Children’s physician to actually see the patient and interact with them, we’re confident we’ll be able to keep and serve more families here, in their own community. A picture is worth 1,000 words.”
Partnerships like these also support Children’s vision to be every family’s essential partner in raising healthier children. “Our vision pertains to all kids – not just the ones who live in the Twin Cities area,” said Dr. Robert Sicoli, Medical Director of the Children’s Minnesota Emergency Department. “For these kids who live farther away and who need additional services, the virtual health partnership lets us export our expertise and care to places we couldn’t reach otherwise. These virtual connections are an excellent way to help improve access to care throughout Minnesota.”
Dr. Sicoli noted that in his experience with other virtual health partners around the state, about half the patients are able to stay in their home communities rather than travel to Children’s. “These partnerships have a significant impact,” he said. “And as a physician, it’s valuable for me to feel like I’m in the room with the patient. I can provide support and guidance, and that’s very rewarding.”
Lakewood is Children’s only virtual health partner in north-central Minnesota. Children’s Minnesota seeks partners who are enthusiastic about improving patient care and who have a strong belief that a virtual partnership will benefit the community. It found no lack of either of those qualities at Lakewood.
“Lakewood’s enthusiasm for this partnership was unique,” noted Judy Wenzel, Telehealth Manager at Children’s Minnesota. “They were dedicated to making the implementation process go smoothly and quickly. They are also great partners from a clinical standpoint, and you need all of those components to be successful.”
Wenzel estimates that all Children’s virtual health partnerships across the state have saved families more than 35,000 miles of drive time and $19,000 in gas – or about 188 miles and $100 in gas per family. And that’s not including the value of the parents’ missed work time that’s required when transporting their children to the Twin Cities.
The virtual health partnership is sure to be an outstanding and helpful resource for area patients; one that improves the overall experience of families at Lakewood. In the years to come, Lakewood and Children’s Minnesota hope to explore expanding the partnership to other departments.
For now, Lakewood is committed to ensuring its success with ED pediatric patients. “We’ll be measuring how many patients we keep here and how many we still send down to the Cities,” said Bryniarski. “Even if we can lift the burden of travel from just one or two families, ensure the best care and keep their child closer to home, we will consider that a success.”
For more information about Lakewood’s new virtual health partnership with Children’s Minnesota, visit their website at lakewoodhealthsystem.com. To find out more about Children’s Minnesota, visit childrensmn.org.