INDIO – In July, Loma Linda University Children’s Health – Indio, the largest pediatric clinic in the area, plans to introduce its telehealth program, which enables patients to come to the site, closer to their physical home, while remotely accessing essential expert provider care at Loma Linda.

It will eliminate the 75-mile, one-way drive from Indio to Loma Linda.

The equipment has been identified, testing is underway and Internet technology pieces are in place. It is now a matter of getting the system operating.

Children’s Health – Indio opened on March 12 and is the patient load is increasing. Telehealth will make it possible for even more patients to visit the clinic – and rely on its proximity and services — to seek expert medical care via technology. There are more than 135,000 children living in the desert region, which was one of the driving forces behind the Indio-based clinic.

telehealth

Dr. Alexandra Clark

“Telehealth is an interesting advancement in healthcare right now,” said Dr. Alexandra Clark. “A lot of work is being done in the market on it. It has been used for a very long time in the military.

Clark is Division Chief of General Pediatrics and an assistant professor of pediatrics at Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Loma Linda University Children’s Hospital.

The Navy for example, has a robust way of using telehealth. They have their servicemen and women floating on ships through the Atlantic and Pacific oceans. There is a general doctor on board, but that general doctor might need a sub-specialist’s help, or might need someone else’s opinion about something.

“They really have some great models that they’ve developed, and we’ve been able to learn in the non-military world, from their experiences, and know that pixels travel faster than people,” Clark said. “If we can help those families get the medical care they need, that is timely and correct and not create a burden of additional travel to them, that’s our ultimate goal.”

Not every situation lends itself to telehealth, however, Clark cautioned.

The types of issues that lend themselves to telehealth are established patients where you’re checking in on how a particular medication is working, what are the patient’s current symptoms, a situation where maybe the change in the physical exam is not going to be so significant, but you really wanted to have that conversation with the family and see how things are going, Clark said.

The electronic medical system used at Children’s Health – Indio interfaces with Loma Linda so medical personnel at both facilities have access to all the same information.

Telehealth rooms at the clinic are already equipped with computer monitors. A small camera is attached and plugged into the back of the computer which then shows the patient. An otoscope and stethoscope plug into the computer and the healthcare worker, whether that be a nurse practitioner, the general pediatrician, or a nurse, can actually put the stethoscope on the patient’s heart, lungs, belly, etc. and use the cameras to look in the ears, the eyes, the nose, the throat, Clark said.

One monitor will show the patient the area the professional is looking at with those equipment pieces and one monitor will have their electronic health record open so they can see all of the past history, their medication list and more. They have special earphones that they wear which allow them to hear the sounds of the patient, the breathing sounds, the heart sounds, stomach sounds, etc.

“Our goal is to continue to advance services to the community using a variety of methods and telehealth will be one of the methods we use,” Clark said. “It will not be the only way we’re looking to serve the community and we’ll continue to grow as we see the needs. One of the things that we’re really committed to is continuing to speak with our community. I’m hearing patient stories and hearing what their needs are and trying to be receptive to figuring out how we can best provide that type of care that they’re looking for and hoping to receive. There’s a continued growing process, as a group, together.”

Children’s Health – Indio is now accepting patients on the Inland Empire Health Plan (IEHP). Families with a moderate income that do not qualify for Medi-Cal, may qualify to get their children low-cost health insurance through IEHP Health Kids, which is expected to increase the pool patients.

In the coming weeks and months the clinic will roll out other services, such as urgent care, dentistry and other specialties. The nearly 13,000-square-foot building houses 20 patient exam rooms, three dental chairs and an X-ray room.

To make an appointment, or for more information about Loma Linda University Children’s Health — Indio, call 760-477-0733, or visit them on the web here.