February 6, 2018

Texas Children’s Pediatrics acquired its first practice site in 1995. Two decades later, 50 more have been added and as of December 2017, all practices, hold the highest Patient Centered Medical Home (PCMH) recognition from the National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

NCQA Recognition Programs allow employers, patients and consumers to make quality informed health care decisions. This prestigious distinction celebrates patient care organizations that have demonstrated a strong commitment to improving quality care for their patients.

“NCQA has become the gold standard for quality of care amongst primary care physicians around the country,” said Dr. Stanley Spinner, Texas Children’s Pediatrics chief medical officer and vice president.

All 51 of the Texas Children’s Pediatrics practice sites submitted documented evidence to demonstrate data requirements for the distinction. All clinics are structured to follow the six required PCMH 2014 Standards:

  • Patient Centered Access
  • Team Based Care
  • Population Health Management
  • Care Management and Support
  • Care Coordination and Care Transitions
  • Performance Measurement and Quality Improvement

“Achieving this high level of quality of care has led to improved outcomes, often at a lower cost,” Spinner said. “Texas Children’s Pediatrics is extremely proud of the work that has been done throughout all levels of our organization during the past three years. This offers us a distinct advantage in our current managed care market.”

To date, Texas Children’s Pediatrics has achieved three successful cycles of PCMH Level III recognition, signifying organizational commitment to excellence by working together at every level across the system.

“This is an opportunity for our organization to show and prove that we only want the best care for our patients and their families,” said Natasha Fields, Texas Children’s Pediatrics Nanes Practice Manager. “Moving forward I believe it will continue to display our dedication, passion and integrity for all. It’s a special occasion and we all should celebrate.”

December 12, 2017

A lot happens behind the scenes before patients are wheeled into the operating room at Texas Children’s Hospital to undergo surgery. Technicians disinfect the OR from top to bottom and a team of people with the Sterile Processing Department clean, prepare, assemble and sterilize surgical instruments for patient care.

At Texas Children’s Main OR in the Medical Center, the sterile processing team handles instruments for close to 80 procedures a day Monday through Friday and around 15 procedures on the weekends. The procedures can require anywhere from two to 12 sets of instruments each with a numerous amount of single instruments.

The team processes more than 17,000 instruments a day. To be able to handle this and keep up with the demands there are 3,200 plus sets of instruments. Sterilization of the instrument sets can be accomplished by steam, hydrogen peroxide, or ethylene oxide. Each requires special quality assurance monitoring and designated time for completion.

There are also operating rooms designated for cardiovascular cases, at Wallace Tower, Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus and Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands that have their own sterile processing areas.

Click here to watch Channel 11 KHOU’s story about Texas Children’s sterile processing team.

December 5, 2017

A little over a year ago, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands Outpatient Building opened its doors to the Greater Houston area and beyond. Since then, the ever-growing team of providers and support staff have seen 50,000 plus patients in the outpatient areas and received numerous compliments from the patients and family members they serve.

“Our first year has been packed with many new and exciting opportunities,” said Julie Barrett, director of outpatient and clinical support services for the Outpatient Building. “We have grown substantially, adding new service lines, providers and staff, and we have established a culture that exemplifies our mission to provide the best possible care for our patients and their families.”

Designed with a “spirit of the woods” theme to incorporate the lush, woodsy landscape that surrounds it, the six-floor, 209,973-square-foot Outpatient Building opened in October 2016 housing almost 20 areas of specialized care including cardiology, sports medicine, neurology and hematology/oncology. A dedicated medical staff at the facility works in conjunction with the Texas Children’s system to provide top-notch medical care.

Connected to the almost year-old Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands on floors one and two, the Outpatient Building offers a fresh, new kid-friendly environment to families seeking the best pediatric care for their children. A state-of-the art sports physical therapy gym is on the first floor, check-in and check-out stations resembling a child’s club house are at the entrance of each clinic, and spacious exam rooms and provider work stations line many of the building’s halls.

Susan Niles, a senior athletic trainer with Sports Medicine, said the Outpatient Building’s Sports Medicine staff has grown substantially since it starting seeing patients a year ago, adding nurses, physical therapists, athletic trainers and a sports dietitian. Such growth has allowed the staff to provide quicker access to therapy services, Niles said. It also has provided opportunities for research.

“Using technology from the motion analysis lab, we have launched a research project that we hope will provide breakthrough information on concussions,” Niles said. “We are the only campus with a motion analysis lab and we are excited to use the technology for our patients.”

Ambulatory Services Therapy Manager Jay Mennel said another unique service offered in The Woodlands comes by way of an Alter-G treadmill, an anti-gravity treadmill utilized by sports therapy patients, he said. Such a specialized service combined with other specialty clinics led to the therapy staff completing more than 18,000 outpatient visits during the Outpatient Building’s first year in operation.

“We have some fantastic physicians and great senior leadership at The Woodlands, which has helped our department grow at an exceptional rate,” Mennel said. “We hope to continue to grow this next fiscal year.”

Heather Jordan, a staff nurse in Outpatient Surgical Services, Melanie Garcia, a medical assistant with Plastic Surgery, and Yvonne Barham a staff nurse with Diabetes and Endocrine, all said they have seen tremendous growth in their areas and that they have seen patients from all over Texas and surrounding states.

“Our patients have come from Nacogdoches, Lufkin, Bryan/College Station, Corpus Christi, Port Arthur, and Louisiana,” Barham said. “Many of the local residents have stated how happy they are to not have to travel for their regular office visits.”

Garcia agreed and said patient experience is something that everyone at The Woodlands Outpatient Building takes to heart. “We go above and beyond on a daily basis to make sure every patient feels special,” she said. “We are always improving, always compassionately serving each other and our patients.”

When asked what’s next, leaders, providers and staff point to continued growth and involvement in The Woodlands community.

“Now that we are here and have established workflows, processes and procedures, we can begin to work on things such as more access to patients and families, and staff being more involved in the community,” said Shawnda Kelley, ambulatory manager of various service lines at the Outpatient Building. “I am happy and proud to be a part of this new beginning and can’t wait to see what’s next.”

November 29, 2017

Information Services, the Cancer and Hematology Centers and Pharmacy recently partnered to successfully launch Epic Beacon, a new medical oncology module that gives physicians and other providers a better tool with which they can create personalized treatment plans and support care regimens based on standardized protocols. The outcome of such treatment plans and support care is a more efficient and effective way to follow each patient through outpatient doctor’s visits and inpatient hospital stays, easing the patient’s transition to lifetime, post-cancer care.

“This initiative has changed how we deliver care to some of our sickest patients,” said Cancer Center Director Dr. David Poplack. “With Beacon, we are able to provide more tailored treatment, more efficiently and at a decreased risk to our patients who receive some of the strongest medications.”

During the 18-month implementation process, about 600 treatment protocols were made electronic via Epic Beacon, which is fully integrated with Epic’s pharmacy and electronic Medication Administration Records (MAR) products, allowing oncologists to better track medications that have been dispensed and administered, including medications ordered outside of an oncology treatment plan.

In addition, Beacon, which is being used system wide where oncology patients receive chemotherapy, features decision support that can suggest protocols as well as dose-specific medication modifications based on chart data. It also tailors plans at the patient level, so medication orders can be created and queued up in advance of patient visits for cancer treatment.

“Using Beacon has been a culture change for the Cancer Center but well worth it,” said Julie McGuire, director of Enterprise Systems for Information Services. “It has taken real dedication from all teams involved as well as a tremendous amount of physician and nurse engagement.”

Dr. ZoAnn Dreyer, an oncologist with the Cancer Center, said Epic Beacon’s buildout and go-live process was smooth and seamless.

“Even Epic’s own representative was impressed, saying it was the best he has ever seen,” Dryer said. “And it’s worked well in clinic so far for sure!”

Other first impressions of Epic Beacon have been positive as well:

“I’ve never seen a project with as much dedicated physician support and I think that was a HUGE part of this project’s success!”
Drew Willert, Information Services

“The success of the go-live and Beacon’s functionality is a direct result of a multidisciplinary team that demonstrated resilience, excellence and commitment to the overall success of the project.”
Denise Tanner-Brown, Cancer and Hematology Centers

“I am so proud of what WE have done. I am so humbled by all of the outpouring of support from operational, Epic and IS leaders, as well as end users on the front lines.”
Dr. Marla Daves, Cancer and Hematology Centers

When Peggy Kellum called the Texas Children’s Office Move and Relocations Team (OMART), all she wanted was three filing cabinets moved from one side of a room to another.

“I thought they were going to tell me no, but they did it,” said Kellum, an administrative assistant with the Department of Pathology. “I was so impressed by their willingness to go above and beyond.”

OMART was created less than a year ago to handle small jobs like the one Kellum requested as well as larger office moves and relocations. In the past, Texas Children’s has outsourced such jobs, but as the organization has grown, so have the requests and in turn the cost of such services. In addition, efficiencies initially seen by outsourcing have been replaced with extended turnaround periods for surveying, quoting, scheduling and completing the requested task.

“We were given the opportunity to improve the cost and delivery of this service and I believe we have found a solution that works for everyone involved,” said Dan Samora, director of Facilities, Planning & Development. “We’ve received positive feedback from many of our clients and we are providing a cost savings to the organization.”

Since launching the three-person OMART team in April, OMART has fulfilled more than 200 requests, with an average turnaround time of five and a half days from when the initial request was made. The team’s work has saved Texas Children’s an estimated $100,000 and has the potential of saving more if the team grows and expands to areas of the system outside of the Medical Center.

Currently, OMART has the capacity to fill requests from the Abercrombie Building, Feigin Tower, the NRI, Pavilion for Women, Meyer Building, Wallace Tower and West Tower. The team will cover Legacy Tower when it opens and will look at the possibility of expanding to West Campus, The Woodlands and beyond in the future.

OMART also would like to take on larger jobs when capable. Such jobs, as well as capital projects, are still supported by outside vendors.

“We have hit the ground running and are off to a really good start,” said Patrick Hatcher, manager of the Facilities Logistics Program. “We are getting things done more efficiently and effectively, and are looking forward to growing and serving even more of the Texas Children’s system.”

To request move and relocation services submit a Request for Service via the Connect site.

November 21, 2017

Six-year-old Molly Malinsky and her parents have a lot to be grateful for this holiday season. After their daughter was diagnosed with a seizure disorder at four months old, Molly is now seizure free, a miraculous outcome that her family credits to Texas Children’s world-class neuroscience team.

When the Malinskys learned that their daughter’s physician Dr. James Riviello – who had treated Molly since she was four months old – joined Texas Children’s as the associate section head for Epilepsy, Neurophysiology and Neocritical Care, it was a no brainer for the New Jersey family to travel to Houston to reunite with Riviello.

“Dr. Riviello is one of those amazing doctors who is not only knowledgeable, well respected and professional, but above all, cares deeply about his patients and their families,” Rebecca Malinsky said. “We followed Dr. Riviello from NYU to Columbia and now to Texas Children’s so our daughter would continue to receive the best care.”

When Molly was first diagnosed with epilepsy, she was prescribed seizure medication which seemed to work. Molly had no seizures for over a year, but when she was weaned off of her medication, Molly’s seizures returned. “The seizures were getting worse and more frequent,” Malinsky said. “My daughter would have 15 seizures in an hour and three to five seizures at school even when she was back on her medication, which was very scary.”

After five failed medication trials, the only option remaining for Molly was brain surgery. After her parents met with Riviello, Chief of Neurosurgery Dr. Howard Weiner, and neurosurgeon Dr. Daniel Curry to discuss Molly’s treatment plan, the team determined Molly would be a good candidate for brain surgery.

On October 26, 2017, Molly underwent laser ablation surgery, a minimally invasive procedure pioneered by neurosurgeons at Texas Children’s that uses an MRI-guided laser probe to identify and destroy lesions deep in the brain that cause seizures. As the first hospital to perform laser ablation surgery in 2010, Texas Children’s has performed more than 150 of these surgeries, making it possible to treat some of the toughest cases of epilepsy, and put the brakes on damaging seizures.

“The results are very diagnosis and patient specific,” said Curry, director of Pediatric Surgical Epilepsy and Functional Neurosurgery, who pioneered and performed the laser ablation surgery on Molly. “But for something like hypothalamic hamartoma, a particularly difficult disease to treat, it has taken success rates in curing the child’s seizures from under 50 percent to about 80 to 90 percent, so it’s been a significant change.”

MRI-guided laser ablation has not only increased the safety of epilepsy surgery, especially in cases where the targets are far from the surface of the brain, but has drastically improved recovery time. Many children go home the next day after surgery, seizure free. For Molly’s parents, their daughter’s outcome is truly remarkable.

“Since Molly’s surgery almost a month ago, she has not had a single seizure,” Malinsky said. “Her behavior has improved, her ability to learn and retain information at school has returned. Our daughter was able to go trick or treating for Halloween just four days after her brain surgery, which was pretty amazing.”

The Malinskys will return to Texas Children’s in February for Molly’s three-month followup. Meanwhile, they are grateful to Drs. Riviello, Curry and Weiner, and the hospital’s entire neurology and neurosurgery teams for the exceptional level of care, compassion, professionalism and teamwork they delivered to their daughter.

“Between our first visit to Texas Children’s in August and Molly’s surgery, everyone treated our daughter with compassion and offered ways to be helpful in the immediate and distant future as Molly’s treatment plan began to unfold,” Malinksy said. “I could not imagine this journey without the shared and genuine support of Texas Children’s amazing Neurology and Neurosurgery teams. Clearly, you have recruited the best doctors in the country.”

Click here to learn more about Texas Children’s Comprehensive Epilepsy Program and laser ablation surgery.

Hundreds of Texas Children’s supporters attended The Forum Luncheon in Houston on November 13. Hosted by The Development Department, the event focused on the success of the Texas Children’s Cancer Center and featured stories from two cancer survivors as well as an in-depth conversation between Cancer Center Director Dr. David Poplack and Fox 26 Morning News Co-Anchor Melissa Wilson.

Poplack’s conversation with Wilson illustrated how far the Cancer Center has come in helping children with cancer, growing from six faculty, 42 employees, one laboratory and less than $300,000 in grant funding when Poplack joined the center in 1993 to a center that now has 190 faculty, more than 900 employees, 46 laboratories and about $40 million a year in peer reviewed grant funding.

“We have become the largest and we believe the finest children’s cancer program in the country,” Poplack said. “Through our many research advances, our development of exciting, effective, new therapies and most recently through our burgeoning global program, we are having a far-reaching impact on the field.”

Poplack emphasized the need for children to be treated in children’s hospitals like Texas Children’s, which has expert multi-disciplinary teams equipped to tend to all aspects of a child’s care. As the largest pediatric cancer center in the U.S., we provide individualized, state-of-the-art medical treatment for patients with childhood cancer, he said.

“Treating children from more than 35 states and 26 countries, we aim to provide the most family-centered, advanced care available,” Poplack added. “In addition to continued excellence and leadership in treating all forms of pediatric cancer, we continue to expand and grow to better serve our patients.”

Poplack stressed that even with dramatic improvements in treating children with cancer – increasing the survival rate from 20 percent to 80 percent – the disease still is the leading cause of death from disease in children in the nation.

That’s why Texas Children’s Cancer Center is vigilant in its research efforts, especially in the areas of developmental therapeutics, precision oncology and cell therapy and immunotherapy.

“We are dedicated to developing effective treatments for the 20 percent of childhood cancers that are most difficult to treat,” he said. “We won’t quit until we find a cure, and even then, we will move forward to find better ways to help fulfill the long-term needs of childhood cancer survivors.”