The partnership will allow pediatric patients and their families to have access to medical services available through Children's without having to travel. Services commonly needed for children locally are urology, gastroenterology and neurology. Mother Frances officials said about 35 percent of pediatric patients needing hospital care are sent to Children's Medical Center each year.
In addition, much of the time local pediatric patients are hospitalized is spent in Dallas.
“With all the patient days a child has to be in the hospital from our 10-county area, 50 percent of the patient days happen in Dallas,” said Laura Owen, chief executive officer at Mother Frances Hospital-Tyler.
“Our goal is to increase access because not all parents and children can afford transport or be taken away from work.”
The two hospitals have worked together for years, but the formal collaboration will increase services available through Children's, including staff training, telemedicine, recruitment of local physicians and access to specialized services.
Officials called the children's hospital and academic center “ideal organizations” to help ensure the goal of improving pediatric care locally. The relationship will have officials re-evaluating the need for additional pediatric cardiologists and other specialists.
“We saw an immediate growth and desire to stay in this community and see the physicians locally,” Ms. Owen said. “That's why we began to explore other specialists and work on this affiliation in a more formal way.”
“We know that it is a burden to travel from Tyler to Dallas to receive care, and we will work together to bring more of this care in the community,” he said.
With a shortage of pediatric specialists, telemedicine — doctor consultations via video and other communications — can reduce costs for families while being comparable to care seen in-office. Mother Frances' emergency room will be the first area to use telemedicine between the facilities where Children's doctors can assist in the evaluation of children.
“It's almost as good as a physician being physically present,” Hock said. “Using telemedicine helps leverage their time so that people here can get the consultations when they need it without the physician having to travel.”
There also will be a recruitment of local physicians. Officials said those who are recruited may work for Mother Frances, Children's, or both, depending on the circumstances.
“If there is a need for someone to be here five times a week it may make more sense to be a part of the Trinity Mother Frances system,” Hock said.
Either way, those who are recruited will have an affiliation with Children's Medical Center.
Depending on the needs, doctor visits to outpatient clinics in Tyler may increase with the formal agreement.
Currently, a pediatric cardiologist and a pediatric urologist from Children's Medical Center visit Tyler twice each month.
Hock also pointed out that the collaboration is a way for both hospitals to prepare for the changes outlined in the health care law.
The Affordable Care Act, signed into law in 2010, encourages the coordination of care between physicians, specialists and facilities.
“One of the ideas behind the Affordable Care Act is that groups of providers coming together to help manage the health of populations,” he said. “There are likely opportunities for us to work with Trinity Mother Frances to help manage the pediatric population in this community.”
The partnership between the two facilities has been in planning stages for several months, and officials expect services to become available in the coming weeks.