The MassGeneral Hospital for Children Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) has found two intriguing uses for mobile video conferencing: comforting anxious families and consulting physicians at home.
Sometimes, parents can’t be at their child’s bedside. While the hospital strives to make visiting family members comfortable with in-room beds and desks, they help reduce absent parents’ anxiety by loaning them tablet devices. With secure mobile video conferencing, parents can see, hear, and interact with their children, physicians, and nurses—in essence, “being there” without actually being there. In the hospital, a mobile computer station can focus on the ill child or the doctor so the parent doesn’t miss anything.
As Director for Pediatric Telemedicine Dr. Phoebe Yager explained, on a typical day, up to three patients have parents who cannot be present during morning rounds, perhaps due to a transportation issue or job demand. This prompted the department to adapt their telemedicine program—in place since 1996—for the families’ needs. The program has met with success, helping patients and parents feel more at ease and more informed.
In a different vein, the same setup can be used to contact physicians during their off hours if necessitated by changes in a patient’s condition. The in-hospital mobile unit features a camera than can be zoomed or turned remotely, allowing the doctor to examine the patient visually. At the same time, the doctor can discuss the case with the PICU staff on duty.
Dr. Yager emphasized that the telemedicine program was designed carefully and had to meet three criteria:
1. Secure – The software had to comply with HIPAA requirements, providing the ultimate in privacy and confidentiality.
2. Reliable – The software had to maintain a steady, dependable connection.
3. High-Quality – The video image and sound quality had to simulate an in-person presence using high definition and other technologies.
The next step, Dr. Yager says, is to use telemedicine for follow-up visits after discharge, particularly for cases in oncology, palliative care, and hematology. Some children are too at-risk or too sick to travel to an appointment, but in-home telemedicine visits offer ease and comfort without sacrificing the quality of care.