April 15, 2019

A brand-new clinic at Texas Children’s West Campus is empowering children with visual impairment to make the most of the sight they have and live more independent lifestyles.

Texas Children’s Vision Enhancement Center – the only pediatric low vision clinic in Houston and one of only a few in the nation – was started this past January to meet the tremendous need for specialty care for children in Greater Houston living with various forms of visual impairment that can’t be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, surgery or medicine.

The clinic, made possible through a generous gift from Kathy and George Bishop, is spearheaded by Texas Children’s pediatric optometrist Dr. Kelsie Morrison and provides children with tools and techniques to maximize their functional vision so they can perform daily tasks and educational activities.

“The Vision Enhancement Center is the product of a partnership between Dr. Morrison, the Eye Care Department at Texas Children’s and our wonderful hospital administrative partners,” said Dr. David Coats, Texas Children’s chief of Ophthalmology. “This great new service provides promise and hope, and I am very proud to be a part of a team that is so committed to helping children with vision impairment live healthy, happier lives.”

The most common causes of visual impairment, or low vision, in children are inherited or congenital eye diseases, such as oculocutaneous albinism, retinal dystrophies (such as retinitis pigmentosa or Stargardt’s disease), retinopathy of maturity, nystagmus, and optic nerve hypoplasia.

These conditions typically cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of ability to see detail (visual acuity)
  • Loss of side or peripheral vision (visual field)
  • Constant double vision (diplopia)
  • Inability to navigate steps or the edge of curbs (contrast sensitivity)
  • Inability to distinguish colors

Children with low vision face special challenges in school, where great emphasis is placed on learning in a visual environment.

“The majority of what we learn as children is absorbed visually,” said Morrison. “The conditions that our patients have make it difficult to take in visual input and process it. Our job is to get a baseline measurement of their functional vision and then test different solutions, such as magnification devices or electronic systems, to find the best fit for each individual patient and to improve their quality of life.”

The Vision Enhancement Center administers a complete assessment of visual function, eye health and the visual demands each patient experiences in educational, home and community settings. This initial exam is a critical step in determining how the child uses their vision to function and whether visual aids and other environmental modifications can make daily tasks – such as reading and writing – more comfortable and manageable. To help gain a clearer picture of the child’s needs, teachers, therapists or other health care workers are encouraged to attend appointments if possible.

A review of visual equipment already in use at home and school, as well as of textbooks and school materials, helps the optometrist make suggestions and offer guidance on what other magnification tools may be needed, such as telescopes, magnifiers, electronic systems (e.g., video displays, virtual reality mountings), or special tools to help patients who have difficulty with contrast or glare. Additional guidance may be offered on potential environmental alterations that can be made at home or in the classroom to help maximize the patient’s vision and improve their daily life.

The response from the community has been tremendous. Volume has been high since the clinic’s opening and there are already plans for expanding clinic space.

“The care and healing provided at this clinic have the ability to transform children’s lives,” said Dr. Allen Milewicz, Texas Children’s chief of Community Surgery and chief surgical officer at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. “These impactful therapies, and the work of dedicated physicians like Dr. Morrison, make me proud to be part of Texas Children’s.”

Learn more about the Vision Enhancement Center and other services provided by Texas Children’s Division of Ophthalmology.

Texas Children’s MyChart has an electronic waitlist that automatically texts and emails families when appointments become available sooner. Over 2,100 patients have accepted an appointment an average 45 days earlier than their previously scheduled appointment.

Since implementing the electronic waitlist on MyChart in 2018, we’ve received positive feedback from our patients and families about the convenience of this new tool.

“My son’s original appointment was scheduled for September 4, but when I got an electronic notice via MyChart asking me if I wanted to accept an appointment in June, I accepted it,” said Monica Blancas. “While we usually go to the medical center for appointments, I didn’t mind driving a little further for my son’s appointment in Katy if it meant that I could get him in to see a doctor a lot sooner than scheduled.”

Click here for more information on how to opt in to receive New Wait List Offer text messages.

About Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative

Launched in August 2017, Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative is an on-going, collaborative effort to improve patient access across the organization. Since then, Texas Children’s has made significant progress to ensure patients easily and conveniently get in the door so we can provide the care they need, when they need it.

Click here for a list of other tools and features we’ve implemented across the system to improve access, care coordination and patient experience at Texas Children’s.

Mere months after opening its doors to patients and families for the first time, Texas Children’s Specialty Care Austin earned recognition from the Austin Chapter of the Associated General Contractors for outstanding construction.

The association selected Specialty Care Austin for its Outstanding Construction Award after considering the difficulty of construction, unusual techniques and the quality and appearance of the completed facility, Jill Pearsall, Vice President of Facilities Planning & Development and Real Estate Services, said. The group also praised how quickly and efficiently Texas Children’s and its partners were able to complete such a complex project – particularly as a new entrant in the Austin market.

The clinic currently comprises 26,000 square feet on the MoPac Expressway in the bustling north-central area of the city, with 30 exam rooms and facilities for subspecialty care including cardiology, ophthalmology, pulmonology, and allergy and immunology.

“We are thrilled to have this recognition as it represents the overall work of the amazing Austin project team and the quality of environment that Texas Children’s is bringing to Austin,” said Allison Muth, facilities project manager. “There is so much construction activity happening in the Austin area, and it’s an honor to have the specialty care project recognized as one of the best interior renovation projects in the area. We couldn’t have accomplished this without the support of our design and construction partners: McCarthy, Page and Transwestern.”

Texas Children’s employees also helped to design Specialty Care Austin by providing input on the functional needs of the space from the front-line perspective. Employee feedback was further incorporated into the construction and occupancy processes along the way.

The opportunity to help introduce Texas Children’s to a new city encouraged the project team to think outside the box while also maintaining the classic brand look and feel. They were intentional about partnering with local companies and vendors on the project to forge positive, new relationships.

“It’s pretty significant to be awarded in both the health care arena and construction arena at a facility in Austin, especially for our first time there,” Pearsall said. “You can walk through the clinic and see it is new and fresh with bright, updated colors and natural light; it stands out. We still have a lot of room to grow, but it’s a great location and setting, and our patients and families are in awe. This recognition from the Austin Associated General Contractors is a sign of our success so far.”

April 2, 2019

Texas Children’s Corporate Communications team will launch a special “Did you Know” series on Connect this month called, “Opening the Door: Patient Access at Texas Children’s.

While several stories have been featured on Connect spotlighting our patient access efforts, this new series will deliver small doses of information that employees can easily remember and keep top of mind.

The series will begin on Tuesday, April 9. Each week, a patient access tool the organization has implemented over the past year will be featured and will link to additional information. The series will also be incorporated on our screensaver rotations.

The “Did You Know” series will include a link to a page on texaschildrensnews.org highlighting other resource tools to improve access, care coordination and patient experience at Texas Children’s.

About Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative

Launched in August 2017, Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative is part of an ongoing, collaborative effort to improve patient access across the organization. Since this initiative began, Texas Children’s has made significant progress to ensure patients get into our system according to their urgency and timeline.

In the last year, the Patient Access team has made several MyChart enhancements – online scheduling and an automatic electronic waitlist – as well as direct scheduling via DocASAP that have benefited patient families. In addition, a new pilot program was launched to test the concept of space sharing in our specialty clinics in Wallace Tower that has optimized clinic and exam space, making it easier for patients to access our services.

Connect articles:
Texas Children’s implements first wave of solutions to enhance patient access
MyChart Madness: Scoring points for patient access system wide
MyChart Madness results in, enhancements continue to improve patient access
Patient access initiative continues to generate positive results for patient families
MyChart Shoot for the Stars Challenge: Scoring points for patient access
Texas Children’s rolls out Patient Access 2.0, online scheduling launches
Patient Access 2.0 initiative generates positive results among patient families
Texas Children’s MyChart now available in Spanish for patients, staff
Spotlight Video: Texas Children’s Patient Access Journey and Recent Accomplishments

On March 25, the first patient was seen in the new expansion of Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus Sleep Center. Going from six beds on the fourth floor, to nine beds with six available for future expansion on the second floor, the center will now be able to improve access for patients waiting to be treated for sleep conditions.

“We get about 40 to 50 referrals for a sleep study per day,” Neurophysiology Manager Wes Moulden said. “We were looking at anywhere between three to seven month wait times. Now that we have expanded the sleep lab we’ll be able to start diagnosing more children with sleep disorders, and doing sleep studies more efficiently.”

Texas Children’s Sleep Center is one of the few accredited centers in the country specializing in children’s sleep disorders. A sleep disorder is a disruption in a child’s normal sleeping pattern. The sleep center evaluates and treats common sleep disorders in children including problems falling asleep or staying asleep, sleepwalking and abnormal movements during sleep.

“An accredited pediatric sleep center is very rare and all three of our sleep labs have that recognition, Moulden said. “Another unique thing about our sleep center from a diagnostic standpoint, is that all of our technologists are registered technologists who have been formally educated and trained in this skill which is not normally the case.”

Our prestigious credentials also draws the attention of patients from all over the country to our sleep centers. In 2013, Maria Wilson moved her family to Houston from Idaho so that her daughter Sophia could be treated at our sleep center for what was eventually diagnosed as narcolepsy.

“I knew it was going to be a better situation,” Wilson said. “It was very nerve racking and I was nervous, but I knew it was a better move for us to be seeing doctors that have more experience with my daughter’s condition.”

Since being diagnosed and treated frequently at our West Campus Sleep Center for the past six years, Maria says that Sophia is doing much better and is also receiving a great deal of help as they prepare to transition out of the pediatric care system.

“We love Texas Children’s Hospital! After we got established as patients, we got to know the doctors and built relationships with them. That really helped her quality of life when it comes to going to school and functioning better overall,” Wilson said. “Now she’s transferring slowly to adult doctors, and I’m kind of sad. But for us, we love Texas Children’s, we love the doctors and nurses here, and the care that she’s received, so it is comforting to know that we have them in our corner.”

Last week the sleep center team members, administration, and executives gathered on the second floor of West Campus for a ribbon cutting that marked the opening of four sleep clinics, and nine sleep lab beds.

“I wanted to thank all physician leaders, operations leadership, and anyone who had a hand in this much needed expansion,” Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus Vice-President Ivett Shah said. “Texas Children’s is dedicated to improving access to care and this expansion is another way that West Campus continues to provide high-quality care to the West Houston community and throughout the state of Texas.”

The rooms in the sleep center also have the capacity to perform electroencephalogram studies during the day (EEG), in-room monitoring devices, and a host of other quality equipment to ensure sleep studies are carried out properly, along with a scorer/nurse workroom.

“This space was specifically created with the comfort of the patient in mind,” West Campus Respiratory Care and Clinical Support Services Assistant Director Gbolahan Harris said. “Having these clinics and labs in one space helps to reduce patient and family anxiety while normalizing the experience for a sleep study within the sleep center.”

Rooms on the floor also have the flexibility to be converted back into Acute Care beds if West Campus reaches a point where there is a need.

In addition to larger rooms and more workspace, the idea was to increase the number of providers as well. Prior to opening the expansion Lacie Petitto began as the first full-time nurse-practitioner that will be working in the clinic.

“My background is in sleep medicine so I am so excited for the expansion and my new opportunity to treat children in the sleep center,” Petitto said. “When I was approached by the sleep division for this leadership position I was overjoyed to be a part of this opening. This type of work helps feed my passion for sleep medicine and treating patients with sleep disorders.”

Although they are not board certified to read sleep studies, however clinically, Advance Practice Nurses (APN) can see the patients, assess, diagnose, and treat them as well. This allows clinic volumes to open and more patients are seen and treated in a much more efficient way.

“That’s never been done before at Texas Children’s as far as having a full-time nurse practitioner for sleep,” Moulden said. “The center is multi-faceted we have a variety of providers. Some are neurologists, some are pulmonologists, and we are the primary pediatric partner for the Baylor College of Medicine Sleep Fellowship program where we train physicians as well.”

The ultimate goal of the sleep center moving forward is to continue to provide the same high-level services, but on a larger scale.

“Sleep providers should have dreams, and their dreams should come true as they have today,” Texas Children’s Sleep Center Medical Director Dr. Daniel Glaze said. “We anticipate a lot of work, but it will also be a lot of fun. We look for this to be a model for other sleep institutions, and are committed to providing the best diagnostic and overall care for children with sleep complications.”

February 25, 2019

It’s been less than a year since the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors for the first time to care for our most critically ill patients at Texas Children’s Medical Center campus. And, in that short period of time, Texas Children’s has made great strides for our patients and their families.

On May 22, 2018, Smith Legacy Tower opened with 45 critically ill patients. Four months later on September 25, Texas Children’s No. 1 ranked Heart Center opened in Smith Legacy Tower to deliver care to 64 patients. Since that historic moment, Texas Children’s critical care, cardiology, surgical and radiology teams have been busy.

To date, Smith Legacy Tower has had 3,870 patient admissions in the pediatric and cardiac intensive care units. More than 5,000 patients have received care at Smith Legacy Tower’s outpatient Heart Center clinics, and over 450 catheterization and 476 MRI procedures have been performed in the new tower.

A total of 2,356 surgeries were completed in Smith Legacy Tower’s state-of-the-art surgical and cardiovascular operating rooms, totaling 9,495 surgical hours. In the first three months of opening the tower’s new helipad, Texas Children’s had 66 helipad landings, allowing for even greater access to Texas Children’s for the sickest patients.

“I don’t know of any other children’s hospital in the country that has the type of experience that Texas Children’s has in bringing all of these elements together,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “With Legacy Tower providing much larger, more functional spaces for our patients, clinical and surgical teams, we are delivering on our promise to ensure every child receives the right care, at the right time and in the right place.”

West Tower Backfill Project

Following the successful opening of Smith Legacy Tower, construction is now underway to backfill and renovate the patient care spaces on floors 7 and 15 of West Tower that were left vacant from the patient moves.

Part of the West Tower Backfill project involves transitioning patient care services out of the Abercrombie Building which currently serves as Texas Children’s general pediatrics and pediatrics hospital unit. As one of the hospital’s oldest facilities, the smaller spaces and limited technological capabilities have historically presented challenges for providers, clinical care teams, patients and their families.

“When our executive steering committee was formed to look at space planning and space management for our clinical programs, one of our guiding principles was to decrease or eliminate care in Abercrombie,” said Assistant Vice President of Nursing Jennifer Sanders. “As our patients and staff become more dependent on technology, there are challenges due to the age of the facility.”

7 West Tower

As part of the backfill project, 7 West Tower will become a 32-bed dedicated hematology and oncology unit that will include 22 hematology-oncology rooms and 10 bone marrow transplant rooms.

Formerly known as the Progressive Care Unit, several patient rooms had been set up as pods where four patients occupied one room. Construction is underway to reconfigure this space into four private rooms. Renovations will also include a multi-disciplinary work area, larger family lounge and respite areas.

Cancer and hematology patients from other parts of West Tower and Abercrombie will move to 7 West Tower once renovation is completed. The targeted date of completion is September 2019.

15 West Tower

While 15 West Tower used to be Texas Children’s cardiovascular intensive care unit, this space will be redesigned to meet the future growth of our acute care patient population.

By converting this space from critical care to acute care, 15 West Tower will become a 36-bed acute care Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM) unit that will include a family lounge and respite spaces. The unit will include four behavioral health rooms, multi-disciplinary work area and space for our PHM providers.

Patients from Abercrombie 5 and 6 will move to 15 West Tower, and during this transition, 7 South Abercrombie will be a “patient ready” floor that will serve as an acute care unit during high patient census. The targeted date of completion is July 2019.

6 West Tower

The last component of the West Tower Backfill project is the reconfiguration of 6 West Tower that will address different patient populations on one floor. Expected to be completed in late 2020, 6 West Tower will become a separate inpatient and outpatient dialysis and pheresis unit. While this floor used to house the administrative offices for critical care physicians, the hospital’s neonatology offices are still located there.

“Collaborating with our facility planning and development partners, our nursing team has played a crucial role in leading the West Tower Backfill project,” said Associate Chief Nursing Officer Jackie Ward. “The patient move from Abercrombie to West Tower will help us meet the future growth of acute care, while enabling our patient care teams to collaborate more efficiently in these new, enhanced spaces. This change will also enhance and improve our patient and staff experience.”

February 5, 2019

In response to an increased demand for short-term, non-chronic care, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands has expanded its Acute Care Unit from 32 beds to 45.

The need for the 14-bed expansion was evident shortly after the hospital opened its doors two years ago, said the unit’s assistant clinical director Roxanne Vara.

“We were at capacity several times last year,” Vara said. “This expansion will allow us to admit more of our patients closer to home.”

The additional beds in the Acute Care Unit are located on the third floor of the hospital. By mid-February, the expansion will include a playroom equipped with a section dedicated to patients 12 and older. This section will house a PAC-MAN video game donated by The Woodlands facilities team among other age-appropriate games.

“We always want to be able to say yes if a child needs a bed at our campus, and this expansion is how we are able to continue to do that,” said Assistant Vice President Ketrese White. “We are continuously strategizing about how and where to expand and move forward.”