Children’s National Hospital is establishing a regional pediatric telehealth consortium in response to coronavirus with $928,000 in funding awarded by the Federal Communications Commission’s Wireline Competition Bureau. The funding, which is part of the FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program, enables the nationally-ranked pediatric hospital to expand its telehealth platform to support 15 healthcare sites in the D.C.-Maryland-Virginia region serving children and young adults, providing care to children with COVID-19 as well as those who are medically vulnerable and helping to protect healthcare workers as the pandemic threat continues.
The new telehealth consortium will encompass health care sites serving urban, suburban and rural communities across the District of Columbia, Maryland and the Commonwealth of Virginia.
The consortium initiative includes establishing the COVID-19 Telemedicine Command Center, which will be hosted by Children’s National and staffed by a team of virtual and in-person providers and clinicians. The Command Center will provide 24/7 coordination of all telehealth activities across all consortium healthcare sites.
The FCC funds will be used for telehealth carts, tablets and other connected devices, the telehealth platform, telehealth equipment and innovative AI (augmented intelligence) to treat seriously ill COVID-19 pediatric patients, as well as patients up to 30 years old, and to continue to provide evaluations, diagnoses, and care to patients with acute or chronic health needs via telehealth. Funds will also support telehealth devices and data plans to provide care for underserved patients.
The expanded telehealth infrastructure is designed to support provider-to-patient pediatric care and provider-to-provider consultations through a connected “virtual hospital” model. It will be used for emergency room, NICU and inpatient care to provide access to specialized expertise and for outpatient care of COVID-19 patients.
The regional consortium model builds upon the well-established telehealth program at Children’s National which employs the latest technology and encompasses 1,200 providers across a wide range of pediatric specialties.
The Children’s National consortium initiative is led by Dr. David Wessel, executive vice president and chief medical officer, hospital and specialty services; Dr. Ricardo Munoz, division chief, cardiac critical care medicine, executive director, telehealth, and co-director, Children’s National Heart Institute; and Dr. Shireen Atabaki, medical director, informatics, associate director, telehealth, and emergency medicine physician.
The FCC’s COVID-19 Telehealth Program was authorized by the CARES Act and to date has approved funding for 132 health care providers in 33 states, plus Washington D.C., for a total of just over $50 million in funding.