Indian Health Service and Children's Hospital of Philadelphia Partner on Pediatric Telehealth

Oct. 2, 2017
The Department of Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) plans to partner with the Indian Health Service (IHS) to create a pediatric specialty consultation service using telehealth for American Indian and Alaska Native children served by IHS.

The Department of Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) plans to partner with the Indian Health Service (IHS) to create a pediatric specialty consultation service using telehealth for American Indian and Alaska Native children served by IHS.

As the first step, IHS and CHOP will develop a comprehensive pediatric telemedicine plan for communities in the IHS Navajo, Phoenix, Tucson and Albuquerque areas. The goal is to create a model for physician-to-physician consultation services. CHOP doctors will provide advice to IHS health care providers on challenging and unusual cases, including diagnoses and courses of treatment.

“Access to pediatric specialty care is limited across much of the United States, with many communities experiencing delays in both consultation and service,” Joseph St. Geme, M.D., physician-in-chief and chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, said in a statement. “As a result of this important initiative, children in rural communities will benefit from medical consultations provided directly, securely and effectively to their IHS health care providers by experts in the field of pediatric medicine.”

The pediatric specialty consultation services will benefit tribal communities in Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah. This telehealth partnership will enable IHS to identify and triage the pediatric specialty service needs for American Indian and Alaska Native children, prioritize clinical specialty service opportunities, determine the critical clinical, operational and technological infrastructure required to provide telehealth services and understand the advantages and disadvantages of new models of care delivery. Additionally, the pediatric telehealth consultation service will enable HIS to analyze and improve key clinical and operational outcomes and develop business plans for broader deployment of telehealth and identify potential funding streams.

This partnership builds on IHS efforts to increase access to telehealth programs and services. On September 20, IHS announced a new contract for $6.8 million awarded to Avera Health to provide telemedicine services in all 19 Great Plains area service units, which serve approximately 130,000 American Indians and Alaska Natives.

In 2009, HIS established the IHS TeleBehavioral Health Center of Excellence to provide behavioral health services for patients across the Indian health system. The Center works to provide, promote and support the delivery of high quality, culturally competent telebehavioral health services to American Indians and Alaska Natives. Additionally, the IHS Teleophthalmology Program was established in 2001 to screen IHS patients across the country for diabetic retinopathy, the leading cause of blindness in patients with diabetes.

“The Indian Health Service is dedicated to providing access to quality care for its patients, and over the years, IHS investments in telehealth have brought the best care to some of the most remote communities in the country,” IHS principal deputy director Mary Smith said in a statement. Smith said through this partnership, IHS will be able to “design and develop a service specifically for pediatric care and consultation for our patients that live in very rural areas and may not be able to travel long distances to a facility to see a specialist.”

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