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Care in the comfort of your own home: Advances in telemedicine
March 02, 2020

There’s a lot to keep track of when a child has surgery, from dietary instructions and medications to where to be and what to bring. Once families make it back home following surgery, there’s usually a big sigh of relief – that is, until it’s time to get back in the car for the post-op follow-up appointments. Advancements in telemedicine are changing that. CHoR has been at the forefront as part of a clinical trial with Dictum Health to monitor patients from the comfort of their own homes.

Innovators in telemedicine

In an initial year-long study, CHoR providers used Dictum Health’s IDM100 Medical Tablet and a cloud-hosted telehealth platform to conduct post-surgical follow-up consults with patients at home rather than requiring them to come into the office. An expansion phase now uses the new eVER-HOME tablet and device kit, which offers an advanced, yet economical, means of conducting live video consults, checking vital signs, collecting data and monitoring patients at home – both at scheduled times and on an as-needed basis.

Dr. David Lanning, co-surgeon-in-chief at CHoR and interim chief medical officer of VCU Health System, has found the device and process to be particularly beneficial for adolescents following bariatric surgery. These patients receive extensive post-op instructions and specific plans ranging from their diet/protein intake to activity and vitamins. Compliance with follow-up care is critically important and it’s advantageous to check in regularly.

We’re also the only comprehensive, American College of Surgeons-verified adolescent bariatric surgery center in the region, so many patients travel several hours for care. The technology is very helpful for Dr. Lanning and his team to fully support patients after their operations.

Timely care through technology

“Not only can we easily connect with patients and families right after they go home, giving them the reassurance that their child is recovering well, but also once or twice over the next week or so,” says Dr. Lanning. “This ensures that they are understanding and following the post-op instructions and care plan. We can also quickly identify if or when there may be a complication or concern, which can then be addressed early before it becomes a serious problem.”

A surgical resident sets up the device and teaches the family how to use the technology before leaving the hospital. It’s quite intuitive and user-friendly, so a quick tutorial is usually all that’s needed. Families can then drop the device off at their next in-person visit, or easily ship it back after a few weeks.

Planning beyond the clinical trial

Experts at CHoR and Dictum Health are also working together to create software that is tailored to each patient, their operation and their specific post-operative needs. This will allow families to use the device as a resource for information, pictures and video content to support their recovery process and confirm they’re progressing as expected. Following the clinical trial period, future goals also include expanding the use of this technology beyond pediatric general and thoracic surgery to other surgical areas including cardiology, urology and neurosurgery.

The clinical trial at CHoR and our work with Dictum Health will help make care more convenient and comfortable for kids in our community and across the country.

“I’m all for technological advancements that help us provide the best care for patients and families, but in-person interaction and human touch are important, too,” adds Dr. Lanning. “We are always available by phone and in-person whether a family has a device or not.”

Could your family benefit from telehealth?

We also participate in VCU Health Anywhere, a telehealth program that brings your provider to you via a “virtual visit” through your smartphone or tablet. We currently offer telehealth visits for general pediatrics, endocrinology, psychiatry and weight management. We expect to expand the service to additional specialties and providers.

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