There is nothing worse than trying to get your child to a far-away emergency room in rush-hour traffic. Now kids who go to the emergency room at Seton Northwest Hospital can be seen by Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas doctors, without having to get to the medical center in the Mueller neighborhood.
Much like it did earlier this year at Seton Medical Center Hays, Dell Children’s has expanded its reach by using telemedicine technology with emergency room doctors at Seton Northwest. The technology allows Dell Children’s doctors to consult with the doctors at Seton Northwest and see patient records and information.
The move doesn’t replace what is available at Dell Children’s. If the situation is serious and needs more specialized in-person treatment, the patient will be transported to Dell Children’s. “The only place with comprehensive pediatric specialty care in Central Texas is Dell Children’s” said Dr. Mark Shen, Dell Children’s Health president, who now oversees all the different parts of Dell Children’s, not just the hospital.
“Most children — 90 percent — never need that kind of care,” he says. “What we’re hoping is for most children to have what’s most convenient.” Then if they do need more specialty expertise, they are already part of the Dell Children’s hospital system.
Just like at Seton Medical Center Hays, Seton Northwest will now have a separate waiting room for children, have staff trained to be child-friendly, follow the same pediatric protocols that Dell Children’s follows and have access to pediatric specialists at Dell Children’s.
And while parents will notice the difference in the separate waiting room, what they won’t see is the training Dell is doing to make the satellite emergency room staff more child-sensitive by doing things like using anxiety-reducing techniques and to have staff following the same pediatric protocols. That means if your child has something common like asthma, an emergency room doctor in Seton Northwest would treat your child the same way as if you were at Dell Children’s Medical Center.
In Hays, what was surprising was how many times doctors did use telemedicine — only about 1 percent of the time. Often, it was just used for patients and their families to meet specialists before meeting them in person at Dell Children’s..
This is the next step in a multisite plan. Dell Children’s is also working on bringing the same program to Seton Southwest Hospital and Providence Healthcare Network in Waco in the next few months. It’s also exploring the possibility of using telemedicine at local pediatricians’ offices as well.
Also new this year, if your child is having a minor emergency, you can book an appointment online at DellChildrensER.com for either Dell Children’s Medical Center or at Seton Hays. Patients will be seen within 15 minutes of their time slot.
Of course, if you’re having a life-threatening emergency, call 911, or if you’re having a major emergency, get to the hospital immediately.
Since the telemedicine program began, Seton Hays has seen about 10 percent more pediatric patients, Shen says. That will continue to grow as Dell educates more local physicians about the new options. Parents are finding the Hays satellite by logging into DellChildrensER.com and seeing that they now have a choice of which emergency room.
“We’re continuously monitoring feedback from families,” Shen says. “Families want the most convenient and child friendly ER.”
Seton Northwest is not expected to grow as quickly as Seton Hays because of the greater number of other options like pediatricians’ extended care hours and minor emergency centers to handle things like stitches that already exist in Northwest Austin.
Dell has also worked on dropping the wait time at all its emergency rooms. It’s now less than 10 minutes on average with time of day and time of year making a big difference. Sometimes its zero minutes at 3 a.m., sometimes it’s up to 30 to 45 minutes at 7 p.m., Shen says.