Health Care

April 15, 2013

Children’s Mercy to offer tele-clinic for allergy patients

Children’s Mercy of Kansas City will offer allergy telemedicine services for patients in Wichita.

Children’s Mercy of Kansas City will offer allergy telemedicine services for patients in Wichita.

The services, which will begin April 26, will be offered the fourth Friday of each month, according to a Children’s Mercy spokeswoman.

Dr. Jay Portnoy, division director for Allergy/Asthma/Immunology at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics, said patients from Wichita have been driving to Kansas City for treatment and follow-up appointments. Now, some of those trips won’t be necessary.

Portnoy said patients who call to make an appointment will be given the choice to be seen in person by the provider in Kansas City or at the clinic in Wichita through a computerized service at the hospital’s clinic at 3243 E. Murdock.

In telemedicine, patients do not meet face to face with physicians. Instead, the doctor and patient can see and talk to each other through the computer.

“You very quickly forget you’re on a screen and it feels like a live conference,” Portnoy said.

There is a “telemedicine facilitator” who is a registered nurse in the room with the patient who turns on the computers and handles the equipment. That person is also knowledgeable about allergies and asthma and can teach patients how to use an inhaler or an epinephrine pen in food allergy cases, Portnoy said.

“We have the ability to do the physical exam electronically,” Portnoy said. “There’s a digital stethoscope and I can look into the ears, nose and throat. I can also see rashes with a high resolution camera. You can do almost anything with remote telemedicine.”

There will also be a printer in the patient exam room so Portnoy can remotely print instructions or information for patients in Wichita.

He can also send prescriptions to pharmacies in Wichita.

“The day of writing a prescription no one can read is long gone,” he said.

Currently, Wichita patients will only be able to have allergy blood tests performed at the clinic. If they need a skin test, they will need to schedule a visit to Kansas City, Portnoy said.

Children’s Mercy recently received a grant of $50,000 from the Blue Cross Foundation to compare the outcomes of patients who receive telemedicine with those who see doctors in person for a year, Portnoy said.

“We hope to demonstrate that telemedicine does not sacrifice the quality of care,” Portnoy said.

Depending on the demand, the telemedicine services could be expanded to more days, Portnoy said.

Earlier this month, Children’s Mercy of Kansas City held a dedication ceremony for its new clinic in Wichita. For more than 20 years, Children’s Mercy leased space around Wichita for appointments with area patients. Children’s Mercy plans to relocate its other Wichita outreach programs, including urology, gastroenterology and hemophilia, to the new location.

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