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.”

January 29, 2019

Texas Children’s is taking convenient pediatric subspecialty care to another level as we rebrand our Health Centers. All eight are now branded as Specialty Care Clinics and are located throughout the Greater Houston area. Our Specialty Care locations provide many of the same pediatric subspecialty services available at our three hospital locations, just closer to patients and their families.

“A few years ago we began rebranding our Health Centers and as Specialty Care Clinics because that more accurately describes the services we provide our families in the community,” said Julie Barrett, director of Outpatient and Clinical Support. “This rebranding is better aligned with Texas Children’s marketing messaging. We really are providing the right care, at the right time, in the right location, and this change more accurately conveys our strategic direction.”

The signage, Epic programming and patient materials now include the Specialty Care name and logo. Texas Children’s has expertise in more than 40 pediatric subspecialties. The name “specialty care” reflects and is more in line with our service offering of specialized care. Many of the same doctors who treat patients at our Medical Center Campus care for patients at specialty care locations. The rebranding of the centers was implemented through a project partnership between IS, Facilities and Marketing.

The seven Houston-area Specialty Care Clinics now include: Texas Children’s Specialty Care Bellaire, Upper Kirby, Eagle Springs, Kingwood, Clear Lake, Cy-Fair, and Sugar Land. And in October 2018, the first Specialty Care Clinic opened in Austin to provide our high quality specialized clinical and diagnostic care to children in the fastest-growing city in Texas. Although each location offers different services, they include a wide range of diagnostic services to accommodate the specific needs identified in the respective communities.

“As we continue to grow in the community and provide exceptional patient care, transitioning from Health Center to Specialty Care clarifies our purpose of creating a healthier future for children,” director of Outpatient and Clinical Support West Campus, Kara Abrameit said. “It renews our commitment to providing world class specialty care close to home for our patients.”

Special provider note:
For providers who would like to put in orders, the order class has changed from Health Center (HC) to Specialty Care (SC).

Click here for more information about Texas Children’s Specialty Care.

November 19, 2018

Over 300 miles away from Texas Children’s Hospital is the Vannie Cook Children’s Clinic. Located in McAllen, Texas, the facility is an extension of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, dedicated solely to pediatric cancer and blood disorders in the Rio Grande Valley.

The clinic opened in 2001, as a joint venture between a local foundation, the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. Since then, more than 9,500 families have found the care they need right where they need it most – in their own backyard.

“Before we arrived, most of the local children with cancer and blood disorders had to travel several hours to and from San Antonio or Houston for treatment,” said the clinic’s medical director Dr. Juan Carlos Bernini. “This region didn’t have any pediatric cancer facilities, and there were no pediatric oncologists or hematologists regularly practicing close by.”

During the first year of operation, clinic staff expected to see about 100 patients. Instead, they saw more than 400. “It was obvious how critical our presence was, but the community thankfully trusted and bolstered our ability to serve them,” said Bernini.

Comprehensive care

Texas Children’s/Baylor College of Medicine physicians staff the clinic in the only comprehensive pediatric cancer and hematology center in South Texas.

“The clinic has grown from a small group of providers into a top-notch team of physicians, nurses, social workers, clinic technicians and administrative supporters, all committed to delivering the newest and most advanced therapies to our young patients,” Bernini said. “Our commitment to the patient and family starts at diagnosis and continues throughout treatment and beyond. Most importantly, we’re able to forge exciting paths for long-term survivorship with our patients every day.”

The outpatient clinic is comprised of over 10,000 square feet of space with two waiting rooms, seven exam rooms, two procedure rooms, two phlebotomy stations, two laboratories and a large infusion suite divided into areas for toddlers, young children and adolescents, respectively.

In addition to offering diagnostic and cancer treatment services, the clinic offers a long term survivor program which follows childhood cancer survivors through adulthood, and a research program that offers participation in epidemiology studies and clinical trials.

As a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), we are able to provide local children with critical access to clinical trials. This is particularly important since a large portion of the population that we treat is Hispanic, a population that is generally under-represented in clinical trials.

Still growing

Leaders with the Vannie Cook Children’s Clinic and its partners are always evaluating the services provided at the clinic and are constantly striving to deliver the best care possible to the children served in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. David Poplack, associate director of the Cancer and Hematology Centers and director of Global HOPE, helped pave the way for the partnership between Texas Children’s and the Vannie Cook Foundation. He has always said that supporting the clinic was and continues to be the right thing to do.

“At Texas Children’s we believe our responsibility to care for children doesn’t begin and end with those who are able to come to us for help,” Poplack said. “We have an obligation to identify and address critical gaps in coverage whether they are near or far.”

November 12, 2018

Eighteen-year-old Angeles Vasquez was anxious and scared. For months, a painful wound had lingered on her right ankle. No matter what remedy she and her family tried, it just wouldn’t heal. Unable to find answers or relief elsewhere, they turned to Texas Children’s Hospital and our new pediatric Wound Care Clinic, a new initiative spearheaded by Chief of Plastic Surgery Dr. Edward Buchanan and Director of Surgical Advanced Practice Providers Ryan Krasnosky.

“Dr. Buchanan and Ryan were awesome,” Vasquez said “They gave me the medications I needed and taught me how to properly clean and care for the wound. It’s finally healing and they’re still checking in with me all the time to make sure I’m okay.”

The new Texas Children’s Wound Care Clinic – one of only a few in the country, and the first and only one of its kind in Texas – is a comprehensive center where patients can have a variety of wounds evaluated and treated by an experienced, multidisciplinary team of dedicated medical, surgical, nursing and advanced practice providers.

The team uses evidence-based, standardized treatment protocols – which are under constant scientific scrutiny – to develop individualized treatment plans for each patient. These care plans take into account factors such as wound origin and location, as well as patient and family lifestyle, to determine the best approach to maintenance and to prevent future wounds. Additionally, data from each case is carefully analyzed with the dual goals of improving clinical processes and ensuring care protocols provide the best possible outcomes.

“There is a huge need for this kind of care in Houston and across the United States,” said Buchanan. “We want to lead the way in pediatric wound care on the national level, developing scientifically supported protocols that become the standard of pediatric wound care. With our clinical volume and our dedication to treating these patients, we’re strategically positioned to accomplish this goal.”

Experts in the Wound Care Clinic currently see patients from across the Texas Children’s system at our Texas Medical Center campus, providing high-quality care for a wide range of conditions, including:

  • Animal bites
  • Chronic wounds
  • Deep pressure wounds and ulcers
  • Fragile skin and other skin issues
  • Gastrostomy or other tube issues
  • Soft tissue infections
  • Thermal skin injuries (that do not meet criteria for burn transfer)
  • Trauma
  • Wounds in babies with congenital anomalies

“These wounds are often complex and can take quite some time to heal,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “It’s wonderful for a patient to be able to see a team that has all the expertise and products available to heal these wounds in a timely fashion. Additionally, we have the ability to perform minor procedures to speed along the healing and are also able to directly schedule surgeries from the clinic if necessary.”

Still in its beginning phase, the clinic is currently held one day a week. However, in the months since the clinic’s opening, there has been a rapid increase in patient volume, and preliminary plans are already being made for expansion to West Campus and The Woodlands.

“The growth in volume is a testament to the high-quality care our patients are receiving,” Krasnosky said. “Families have been extremely pleased with the care we’re providing and they’ve voiced their appreciation for having a consistent ‘home’ for wound care.”

As the clinic grows, teams will continue to analyze data and lessons learned in order to further standardize clinical processes and care protocols. Long-term goals include the introduction of same-day surgical interventions, for wounds that require more invasive treatment. There are also plans for the integration of a comprehensive research component, with a basic science emphasis on wound healing and clinical research efforts focused on developing evidence-based wound care guidelines, as well as the creation of novel wound treatments and care assessment tools.

In the meantime, clinic care teams are laser-focused on providing the best possible wound care and improving outcomes for every patient who comes to us.

“The Wound Care Clinic is open to any and all wounds that practitioners need assistance with,” Buchanan said. “We hope to get involved early in the care of pediatric wounds within the Texas Children’s system, so as to decrease the time to healing and improve the quality of life of our patients. As our clinic expands, our capacity will expand, and we will be able to provide services to all patient populations. No wound is too trivial or small for an evaluation.”