bringing more driscoll care to more of the rio grande valley

More care for more kids is at the heart of the Driscoll Health System. Telemedicine services has played a vital part in helping the Driscoll team accomplish that goal in the Rio Grande Valley and other markets.

Telemedicine uses advanced technology applications and broadband telecommunications to allow physicians to see and speak with their patients in real time within a private and secure environment, regardless of the distance. Bluetooth stethoscopes, otoscopes and scanning devices give physicians the ability to expand exam capabilities remotely, as if it were being done in the same room.

During the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, telemedicine practices fulfill a critical healthcare need for Driscoll. In-person patient appointments were kept instead of canceled by simply converting them to telemedicine appointments, reducing possible viral exposures and helping patients follow shelter-in-place county guidelines.

Driscoll telemedicine has allowed the scope of pediatric healthcare to continue widening in the Rio Grande Valley and other areas. The variety of local specialty care now available has made a difference in the lives of hundreds of children and their families.

Current Driscoll telemedicine services in the Rio Grande Valley include the following:

TELE-NICU Program: The physicians of the Level IV Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi provide immediate support to six other Texas NICUs through a Regionalization Telemedicine Program. The program helps to strengthen physician-to-physician relationships and to better assess patient transfer cases.

a.) Pediatric Surgery TELE-NICU (Valley Baptist Medical Center Harlingen, Brownsville, DeTar, Doctors Laredo)

Subspecialty Clinic Telehealth and Telemedicine Services:

• Cardiology
• ENT
• Gastroenterology
• Plastics
• Maternal Fetal Medicine
• Endocrinology
• Nephrology
• Neurology
• Surgery
• Genetics
• Pulmonology
• Oncology/Hematology
• Urology
• Orthopedic
• Maternal Fetal Medicine (MFM) incorporated telemedicine, conducting over 200 consults a month. Sonographers perform ultrasound, which is interpreted by the MFM physicians who provide the consultation with the patient via telemedicine. Nurses are present with the patient at the remote location to ensure all questions are answered and facilitate care coordination. MFM clinic consults require a multidisciplinary approach to care. Telemedicine helps to make the most of the scarce resource of MFM physicians and allows them to provide services for more patients throughout South Texas.

For Driscoll Health System, the primary goal of telemedicine services is to provide more access to patient care through a secure and effective platform, according to Damaris Perkins, Director of Telemedicine Services. “In addition, through telemedicine, we strive to increase timely patient care access, maximize physician productivity and efficiency, and solidify our commitment to provide better customer service to patients, colleagues and referring providers.”

Many mothers-to-be in the Rio Grande Valley have been familiar with Driscoll telemedicine for some time. Ryan Loftin, MD, FACOG, Director of Maternal Fetal Medicine for Driscoll Health System, has always been a believer in telemedicine. When he and other Driscoll MFM physicians couldn’t physically be with a patient in the Rio Grande Valley, they used ultrasound and nursing staff remotely. Full MFM telemedicine clinics were launched in August 2019, allowing for all of the services provided at an in-person clinic.

Such services allow Rio Grande Valley mothers-to-be to get the best care possible, regardless of where a specialist might be located. “Telemedicine helps us provide better services to patients and their primary OB providers who are referring them to our group,” said Dr. Loftin. “Patients enjoy being seen by a doctor even when we can’t be there in person. This has been valuable for giving the best possible care on days when weather doesn’t allow us to fly and we cannot travel to see a patient in person. We can provide care for more patients in more locations by leveraging technology to help extend our reach.”

Telemedicine services are incorporated into a specialty after a detailed assessment and planning process. Some of the factors that are assessed include reviewing the volume of patients being seen by the specialty, the time it takes for patients to get an appointment, and the practicality of using telemedicine in a particular specialty.

Another Driscoll specialist is impressed with how much telemedicine technology has assisted him in taking care of his patients in the Rio Grande Valley and other areas. “The advancement of telemedicine has been by leaps and bounds in sync with the technology that has made smartphones, computers and televisions more sophisticated and smaller, with better cameras and screen resolution,” said Driscoll Pediatric Plastic Surgeon Kevin S. Hopkins, MD, FACS, of the Craniofacial and Cleft Center.

For Dr. Hopkins, telemedicine has been an overwhelmingly positive addition to his work with Driscoll. “Telemedicine has helped me to have better, more convenient access to our patients on a daily basis. If someone needs to be seen right away, or if I may not be at a nearby clinic for several weeks, I can virtually see them with telemedicine and determine what action needs to be taken.”

“Recent events have dramatically changed the acceleration of bringing telemedicine into the home and office, and this will be here to stay. These virtual house calls allow for a more patient-centric care and increases our ability to respond to our patients’ concerns in the timeliest way.”

More care for more kids. Be it through traditional means or through the cutting-edge technology of telemedicine, Driscoll Health System will always offer the Rio Grande Valley the absolute best in healthcare.