CHILDREN'S MERCY KANSAS CITY USES TELEMEDICINE WITH REAL-TIME DIAGNOSTICS FOR SPECIALTY CARE
Full-scale specialty care through telemedicine carries significant potential to expand where and when patients can be treated — but it is only possible with constant network connectivity. In situations where transporting a patient to a hospital for palliative care is dangerous, Children’s Mercy Kansas City discovered telemedicine technology with secure, always-on 4G LTE connectivity through Cradlepoint’s COR IBR650 platform.
Now Children’s Mercy has the flexibility to deliver specialized patient care faster, and in more places, with better efficiency than ever before.
Children’s Mercy, the only free-standing children’s hospital between St. Louis and Denver, provides comprehensive care for patients from birth to age 21. The hospital’s staff of more than 8,000 includes upwards of 750 pediatric specialists representing more than 40 specialties.
Children’s Mercy is affiliated with the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and is the principal teaching hospital for The University of Kansas Medical Center.
To increase access to its specialists, the hospital has multiple rural locations. At these branch clinics, Children’s Mercy nurse telefacilitators bring patients together virtually with specialty providers in Kansas City. Utilizing telemedicine technology, the patient receives the same quality of care as they would in a traditional appointment.
After the success of specialty care with telemedicine at its rural clinics, Children’s Mercy identified a need for similar technology for home visits, which are vital for patients who are difficult to transport to a hospital or clinic for their primary or palliative care. For patients with multiple conditions, who are bed-ridden and/or use a wheelchair and rely on a home ventilator, telemedicine is a superior option.
“We simply can’t let geography prevent patient care,” said Dr. Amber Hoffman, Medical Director for the Children’s Mercy Beacon Program.
Children’s Mercy implemented web-based telemedicine software that enables devices such as stethoscopes, otoscopes, and diagnostic examination cameras to relay data from a patient’s home to a medical facility in real time. Physicians now can carry on a face-to-face video conversation with a patient while simultaneously receiving and referencing detailed medical analytics.
Initially, Children’s Mercy tried consumer-grade MiFi devices for connectivity. However, problems arose such as slow speed, poor video quality, and frequent dropped calls.
“Real-time video requires a solid, stable connection, and we just weren’t seeing that. We were experiencing poor audio and video quality, and you just can’t have that when you’re doing diagnostic medicine,” said John Baker, senior analyst for telemedicine and video conferencing at Children’s Mercy.
The health system’s strategic partner on the project recommended Cradlepoint.
“We chose Cradlepoint’s mobile broadband platform on the recommendation of VISIO Health & Technical Solutions, a Cradlepoint customer, and our need for low latency and high bandwidth was met — and then some,” said Baker.
To rectify its connectivity problems, Children’s Mercy transitioned to a portable telemedicine unit featuring a Cradlepoint COR IBR650 and VPN solution. The Cradlepoint solution’s reliability, high bandwidth, and small form factor allowed for easy mounting on the telemedicine unit — with access anywhere that AC power was available.
“It really comes down to consistency. We are confident that whatever part of the city we go into, we’re going to have a constant and consistent connection,” said Baker.
Now telemedicine nurses can visit patients’ homes with the confidence that their technology will not fail.
“Our hospital is reaching out farther and farther into our community to help patients and providers,” said Dr. Hoffman.
Consistent, Reliable Connectivity: With always-connected real-time audio/video and diagnostics, medical personnel deliver specialized services such as pediatric neurology and rheumatology that otherwise would be limited by geography. Additionally, Children’s Mercy’s telemedicine efforts have earned buy-in from the practitioners who are involved, which is essential for the success of any program.
“In healthcare, when medical professionals encounter technology that doesn’t always work, they simply won’t use it. An uninterrupted Internet connection instills trust in telemedicine and helps us expand care in community,” said Baker.
Security of Patient Data in the Field: Cradlepoint solutions enable secure, reliable VPN functionality, providing a secure way to transmit sensitive data to and from patient homes. With HIPAA Compliance and breach prevention always top of mind in healthcare, Children’s Mercy is able to trust it’s security setup whether at the main hospital or in a patient’s living room.
“When we enter a patient’s home, we’re taking our Internet with us,” said Baker.
Flexibility to Deliver Patient Care Anywhere: In the case of a boy named Jacob, who has end-stage muscular dystrophy, Cradlepoint’s COR IBR650 enabled medical professionals to serve him in the safest, most comfortable environment: his family’s home. Taking Jacob to the hospital is extremely difficult, especially because his condition puts him at a high risk for fractures and anxiety whenever he is moved.
“It actually puts his life at risk when he is transported to the hospital,” said Edie Roderick, a pediatric nurse practitioner and care coordinator at Children’s Mercy.
With telemedicine technology and a secure, constant Internet connection, specialists can monitor and engage Jacob more often, and interact with him on a more personal level.
“We have been able to watch his breathing and listen to his heart in a way that a phone call simply doesn’t capture,” said Dr. Hoffman.