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Children’s Mercy plans to expand telemedicine services in Wichita

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Saturday, Dec. 14, 2013, at 7:42 a.m.

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Children’s Mercy is expanding its specialty clinics to include more telemedicine clinics and is adding office space in Wichita to accommodate the new services.

Telemedicine uses computers to allow doctors to see and talk with patients from a different location.

The new services will include developmental and behavioral health telemedicine and rehabilitative health telemedicine, which includes things like physical therapy and possibly speech therapy, said Lisa Large, telemedicine research and training coordinator for Children’s Mercy.

Children’s Mercy is based in Kansas City, Missouri, but operates clinics and offices in numerous other locations.

Large says the expansion in Wichita is partly due to the success of the allergy and asthma telemedicine clinic at the permanent clinic location, 3243 E. Murdock, Suite 201.

“Now we have this great model of how to run these telemedicine clinics and have so many patients asking for services, we’ve got other specialties that are coming to the clinic,” Large said.

In the future, Children’s Mercy will look for additional telemedicine specialties to add, including rheumatology, Large said.

Construction will start shortly after the beginning of the new year to renovate office space adjacent to the offices on Murdock. Hospital officials hope to have the space complete sometime in the spring.

The renovation will expand its current 3,540 square feet to more than 5,000 square feet. The Murdock clinic currently has nine exam rooms, lab space, a waiting room, office space and a height-and-weight room. The expansion will add several more exam rooms, office space, and another height-and-weight room.

Children’s Mercy opened its allergy telemedicine clinic last spring.

Its brightly colored waiting room was full Friday morning when Shannon Kirstatter brought her 17-month-old son, Isaiah, in for a follow-up appointment.

Isaiah suffers from asthma and allergies. His last appointment in May was in Kansas City, and Kirstatter said it was a relief to be able to have this appointment with the same doctor in Wichita instead.

“It takes just an hour versus the whole afternoon or day. I like being able to do this instead. It doesn’t disrupt our lives as much,” she said.

Kirstatter says she feels the telemedicine visit is the same level of care as seeing the doctor in person.

Dr. Jay Portnoy, division director for Allergy/Asthma/Immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, saw Isaiah from his office in Kansas City.

“I think it’s great that I can provide the convenience for the families. ... Most people really don’t find a difference between face-to-face and telemedicine once they start in. The technology disappears,” he said.

There is a registered nurse in the room during the appointment to handle the equipment and to perform any physical examination for the physician, like looking at the ears and nose and listening to the lungs.

Patients are given a choice if they want to drive to Kansas City for the appointment or go to the local clinic.

In Wichita, Children’s Mercy offers gastroenterology, nephrology, urology, hematology and oncology services, as well as orthopedic surgery with physicians face-to-face.

In 2012, Children’s Mercy had more than 3,400 Wichita patient encounters and more than 4,500 Sedgwick County patient encounters.

Reach Kelsey Ryan at 316-269-6752 or kryan@wichitaeagle.com. Follow her on Twitter: @kelsey_ryan.

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