The cries were audible as I waited outside the exam room at the clinic at Children’s Health Fund’s Dallas program where eight-year-old Jerome* was being seen by a nurse. Jerome was complaining of ear pain, and had missed two days of school already. He, his mom, and baby brother were at the clinic when he should have been in class. His mother had kept him home from school for the past two days, but she was concerned about taking more time off from work. When Jerome had developed a fever she came straight to the clinic, hoping they could diagnose and treat whatever was wrong with him.
On that day, the clinic was staffed by a nurse, with a doctor available for consultation via a telehealth video linkage. With the mom’s consent, I was invited into the exam room by the administrator and watched as the nurse connected via video to Dr. B who was located almost an hour away virtually overseeing three different clinics that day. With her scope in hand, the nurse carefully navigated a check of Jerome’s ears, nose and throat for the pediatrician on the television screen. Jerome’s cries quieted as he looked at the screen and saw what the doctor was seeing… his throat looked fine, but his right eardrum was red; Jerome clearly had an ear infection.
Within minutes, the diagnosis was made, and a prescription was written and filled. All without having to drive to a different clinic or use the emergency room at the local hospital. And while the prescription was being filled, Dr. B was soon on another call from a different clinic at another school-based health center.
Children’s Health Fund’s Dallas program is the longest standing hospital partnership in the Children’s Health Fund national network. It is a unique collaboration between Children’s Health Fund and Parkland Health & Hospital System that has been providing comprehensive medical care to tens of thousands of children and adolescents in Dallas County for 27 years. The need is substantial: children and families in Dallas face numerous barriers to health care such as lack of insurance, homelessness and inadequate transportation, all of which are compounded by language and cultural barriers.
The Dallas program serves patients at various sites throughout Dallas County and site visits occur on a regular basis, ranging from bi weekly to monthly. The Project’s homeless patients receive services on mobile medical clinics that visit shelters on a regular schedule. The program recently expanded to include medical services at 12 school-based clinics. The new telehealth capacity supported by Children’s Health Fund is opening up a world of cure for children and families.
This was my first visit to Dallas since taking over as CEO, and I was reassured to hear how many children benefited from our partnership work. But perhaps my biggest takeaway was the depth of dedication shown by the leadership at Parkland Hospital to make sure this mission-driven program continues to meet the unique needs of vulnerable children and families in Dallas County. The team’s commitment to expand in both geographic reach, and scope of services to meet the emerging needs of poverty-stricken communities, is testament to why this partnership will soon hit the thirty-year mark.
As I was leaving the school clinic, Jerome’s mother smiled at me – medication in hand – and we both breathed a sigh of relief. Because of the new telehealth programming, Jerome would soon be back at school and his mom, back at work. Children’s Health Fund is proud to work together with Parkland Hospital in creating new ways to deliver the highest quality health services for children and families that need it most. We look forward to serving many more children like Jerome in the years to come though this special partnership.
*Not his real name