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When COVID-19 Hit, This Children’s Hospital Answered the Call

doctor on tablet talking to a caregiver holding a baby and a thermometer

COMPANY: Nemours Children’s Health System

CHALLENGE: The risk of COVID-19 infection drove Nemours to transition nearly all outpatient visits to virtual care.

OUTCOME: Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Nemours CareConnect averaged 1,500 virtual visits per day, further cementing the health system as a bright light in its communities.

The health of thousands of kids hung in the balance. By mid-March, Damien Carey, integration team supervisor for Florida-based Nemours Children’s Health System, had undertaken a sprawling telehealth expansion. The risk of COVID-19 infection drove Nemours to transition nearly all outpatient visits to virtual care. If Carey and his eight-person team succeeded, pediatric patients and their families would gain a clear path to care. If the data operation failed, the children could suffer.

So, the data integration experts began working 16-hour days. They problem-solved their way to a telehealth expansion that not only ensured the continuation of care but also far exceeded any expectations of virtual care adoption.

With more than 480,000 pediatric patients across five states, two hospitals, and 80 clinical sites, Nemours Children’s Health System is a lifeline for kids and parents. In April 2019, the organization’s telehealth system, Nemours CareConnect, facilitated 800 remote visits. In the same time this year, that number climbed to 30,000 encounters, for a 2,200% increase. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Nemours CareConnect averaged 1,500 virtual visits per day, further cementing the health system as a bright light in its communities.

“We turned Nemours CareConnect into a full-blown telehealth experience with all of our outpatient ambulatory care visits,” Carey says. “I’m sure anyone on my team could sit at a 9-1-1 desk and perform outstanding because they have that mentality, that work ethic.”

The effects of the victory extended beyond utilization rates. Suddenly, pediatric patients and their caregivers could use their iPad or other mobile device to connect with physicians at scale. Healthcare providers, meanwhile, seamlessly accessed the interface through their Epic electronic medical record system. Nemours CareConnect enabled smooth scheduling that built the backbone of the migration to virtual care. At a time when COVID-19 was hampering workflows everywhere, the telehealth system provided stability for patients and physicians alike.

At first, the patient response was overwhelming. Carey, whose technology relies on the InterSystems Ensemble integration engine and data platform, required additional licenses to meet demand. InterSystems provided the licenses, at no charge, in less than 24 hours.

Now, as COVID-19 infections surge in Florida, Nemours is prepared to meet and treat all of its patients, no matter their diagnosis. But Carey Officer, operational VP for health delivery innovation, says Nemours CareConnect will remain critical when the region enters the “new normal.” Thousands of children and families, it turns out, have felt the benefits.

This story originally appeared the October 16, 2020 – HealthShare Connections News Flash No.4: COVID-19 Pandemic newsletter

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