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Shriners Brings Telehealth to Michigan With Covenant Health Deal

Covenant HealthCare's new telehealth program in Saginaw will give Michigan residents access to pediatric specialists at Shriners hospitals in Chicago and Cincinnati.

Source: ThinkStock

By Eric Wicklund

- Michigan’s Covenant HealthCare has launched a pediatric telehealth program to give residents access to specialists from two Shriners hospitals.

In a partnership with Shriners Hospitals for Children, Covenant’s new Saginaw location will offer a virtual link to Shriners hospitals in Chicago and Cincinnati. Through a telemedicine platform and with access to wireless devices, specialists in orthopedics, burns, soft tissue conditions, spinal cord injury rehab and cleft lip and palate can meet with children and their parents.

“Shriners Hospitals for Children are committed to serving patients and families with more convenient and flexible care,” Mark Niederpruem, an administrator at the Shriner’s hospital in Chicago, told the Midland Daily News. “Our hospitals have been providing telehealth services throughout the country for nearly a decade; however, this launch marks an advance in technology and the hospital’s agility in the continually changing delivery models for healthcare. It also launches the first telehealth clinic for the Chicago Shriners Hospital.”

Aside from specialist consults, Sbriners officials say the telehealth program improves care coordination for children who have visited the hospital.

“Patients come to Shriners Hospitals for Children-Cincinnati from many areas to receive care for a variety of conditions,” officials at the Cincinnati hospital point out on their web page. “Once they return home, it can be difficult for physicians to provide follow-up care. The telehealth clinic lets our physicians, nurses and therapists easily see how a patient is progressing without the patient and his or her family having to travel and take time away from home, school and work. Time is saved, costs are streamlined, and patients and families experience improved health care quality and accessibility.”

The telehealth platform in Cincinnati connects Shriners with several remote clinics, officials said, serving a broad swath of the US from Minneapolis to Tampa.

Perhaps one of the best use cases for telehealth lies with the Shriners hospital in Honolulu. That program offers specialist consults and post-visit care in partnerships with healthcare providers scattered on small islands across the Pacific.

The partnership with Covenant HealthCare builds on the health system’s VirtualCare platform, a telemedicine service for obstetric and pediatric healthcare cases. With this link, Covenant reportedly becomes the first Michigan health system to connect with Shriners.

“The opportunity to help even more children access care they need in a way that is convenient for families and help the local Shriners use their dollars effectively was something we wanted to support,” said Jaime Magness, a program administrator for Covenant VirtualCare, in the press release.

Just two years ago, hospitals in Philadelphia, Salt Lake City and Galveston, Texas, joined forces on a hub-and-spoke telemedicine platform to provide orthopedic consults to regional hospitals and clinics.

The Shriners network also uses the telemedicine platform to bring a little joy to children forced to stay at the hospital during the Christmas season. For several years, the hospitals have been conducting video visits with Santa at the North Pole.

"Santa and healthcare professionals are both in high demand," Jim Hirt, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Alliances for Dimension Data Americas, which coordinates the visit visits, said in a 2017 press release. "Whether it's a visit from the North Pole or an important check-in with a specialist, technology has changed the way doctors, caregivers and even Santa Claus can interact with patients and children all over the world."

"Advanced telepresence technology like this shows that distance is no longer a barrier to quality care - or in this case, a visit from Santa," added Eugene D'Amore, Vice President of Hospital Operations and CIO at Shriners Hospitals for Children.

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