New Provider Priority Line to improve access for referring providers

September 26, 2018


As the largest children’s hospital in one of the fastest growing cities in the country, Texas Children’s high-quality care is always in high demand. However, due to high volume, getting patients and referring providers the answers and access they need in a timely fashion can be a challenge, which is why improving access has been a key focus at Texas Children’s in recent months.

Since the March 2018 launch of the Patient Access Initiative, several key improvements have been made to streamline processes for patients, including standardized clinic sessions and enhanced implementation of MyChart. On September 5, the Department of Surgery took a major step in improving access for referring providers with the launch of 1-855-TCH-KIDS, Texas Children’s new Provider Priority Line, available 24/7 exclusively for referring physicians and advanced practice providers.

“The Provider Priority Line creates a pathway for referring providers to have easier access to Texas Children’s surgeons for questions about patients,” said Dr. Sohail Shah, surgical director of Perioperative Services at Texas Children’s. “We want to make ourselves available to referring providers to assist them in the care of children across the state of Texas, and ultimately the region.”

Previously, if a referring provider had a question for a Texas Children’s surgeon, the communication pathway might route them across numerous Texas Children’s campuses, offices, clinics, and health and specialty care centers. This fragmented approach had the potential to result in multiple call transfers, which could contribute to delayed response times. Now providers can simply call the Provider Priority Line and reach on-call attending surgeons for specialties including Neurosurgery, Ophthalmology, Orthopedics, Otolaryngology, Pediatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery and Urology.

Department of Surgery leadership partnered with Texas Children’s Mission Control and Telecommunications Services to develop the line’s efficient communication flow.

  • When a referring physician calls the line, the call is triaged through Mission Control.
  • Mission Control gathers patient information, and determines the specialty area needed and whether the call is urgent or non-urgent.
  • The call is routed to the on-call attending surgeon at the Texas Children’s campus nearest to the referring provider’s location.
  • The attending surgeon calls Mission Control and is connected to the referring provider on a recorded line, which closes the communication loop.

Early metrics have shown rapid connection times between providers and on-call specialty surgeons, with responses for urgent calls occurring in 15 minutes or less. Initial referring provider reactions have been overwhelmingly positive.

“An early call we received was from a physician at a regional emergency center who had a question about a 14-year-old patient,” Shah said. “He was pleased to be able to speak directly with a pediatric surgeon and relay a care plan to the family immediately afterward. He said the usual course of action would have required an opinion from a local adult surgeon, which often led to a delay in definitive care.”

The Provider Priority Line will not only create easier access to Texas Children’s pediatric surgical expertise, it will also make interactions with providers more customer focused.

“Dr. Shah and his team, in collaboration with Mission Control, have developed a system that delivers an enhanced level of service for our referring providers, who very much appreciate help and advice when seeing pediatric patients who are dealing with complex problems,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “As the largest children’s hospital in the country with the largest number of surgeons and operations, we should be able to provide them with the help they expect from us. With the Provider Priority Line, we can show them we’re committed to meeting and exceeding their expectations.”

In the near term, the service will be promoted to referring providers across the region with the ultimate goal of routing all such referring provider calls through the Provider Priority Line for a more streamlined experience. The long-term goal will be to extend the service to emergency centers and urgent care facilities as well. And in addition to 1-855-TCH-KIDS, there is also a local number available: 832-TCH-KIDS.

Learn more about how Texas Children’s is improving access.