SickKids launches virtual critical care consulting network with six community hospitals
The first partnership in a joint neonatal-paediatric virtual critical care consulting network between The Hospital for Sick Children’s (SickKids) critical care teams and six community hospitals went live on June 1, 2021. Health Sciences North in Sudbury is the first centre to virtually connect with SickKids, serving as an example of a model that could be widely used for acute consultation and ongoing virtual care support in paediatrics. The virtual critical care consultation model was developed and implemented with support from Ontario Health (OTN).
Paediatric programs in community hospitals have been working closely with SickKids to build capacity for high-quality neonatal and paediatric care and address system gaps. Currently, clinicians across Ontario obtain recommendations and advice for patient care from SickKids’ critical care teams, which include neonatal, paediatric and cardiac intensive care units, using a secure telephone connection. This means that decisions and recommendations are typically based on verbal descriptions of the patient. Supplementing this verbal exchange with secure video, so that the critical care team members at SickKids can see the patient, is expected to result in optimizing timely and effective advice being offered to teams in the community.
“There is considerable value in seeing a critically ill newborn or child with our own eyes. Being able to see the child may help us give more tailored and effective advice on management which may allow for these children to improve more quickly,” says Gilfoyle.
SickKids teams can provide initial and follow-up consultations, daily rounds and discussions prior to, or in place of, patient transfers. This support would help ensure health-care resources are efficiently used to meet the needs at each organization.
Six community hospitals in this initial phase
The six community hospitals in this initial phase serve a diverse population mix representing urban, rural and remote northern communities across Ontario. SickKids’ Acute Care Transport Service (ACTS) team and critical care units received 800 calls or approximately 29 per cent of all calls in the last fiscal year from the six participating hospitals – Health Sciences North, Northumberland Hills, Collingwood General and Marine Hospital, Peterborough Regional Health Centre, Lakeridge Health, and Headwaters Health Care Centre.
The system uses Ontario Health (OTN)’s infrastructure, with partner sites being provided with mobile carts that can be kept at the bedside in trauma bays in the emergency departments, labor and delivery suites, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) and Paediatric wards to quickly connect to Ontario Health (OTN) for 24/7 on-demand videoconferencing with SickKids’ critical care consultants.
System will also enhance patient transfer decisions
In addition to ensuring a newborn, child or youth receives the care they require for optimal treatment and outcomes, virtual critical care can also be used for decision-making around potential patient transfers to SickKids. The patient may be able to stay at the community site with increased support from SickKids or be transferred to SickKids via the ACTS Team. Ontario Health (OTN)’s functionality will allow for more timely decisions to be made and triage patients more efficiently due to an improved exchange of information and the opportunity to visually assess the patient.
“The benefits of this network will be so far reaching, and well beyond the individual patient’s care,” says Dr. Hilary Whyte, Staff Neonatologist and Medical Director of the ACTS team at SickKids. “We’re building enhanced critical care competency in the health-care workforce, potentially keeping children closer to home, improving clinician and family satisfaction, minimizing risks of infection transmission by keeping patients in place, ensuring access to acute care expertise for those living in remote settings – the list goes on and on. This really is SickKids care, anytime, anywhere.”