Reach for the Stars Pediatric Telehealth: Achieving Clinical Excellence in Telephone Triage

By Peter Lyle DeHaan, Ph.D.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of AnswerStat

The first annual Reach for the Stars Pediatric Telehealth Conference was held April 30 through May 1 in Bloomington, MN. The conference, organized by Children’s Physician Network of Minneapolis-St Paul, MN, focused on Achieving Clinical Excellence in Telephone Triage. With nearly 300 participants and a dozen vendors represented, attendance exceeded expectations and represented a stellar first year response.

Terri Hyduke, CEO of Children’s Health Network, welcomed a packed house to Bloomington and opened the conference by introducing keynote speaker Dr. Barton Schmitt. Dr. Schmitt, a nationally recognized expert on telephone triage, pioneered pediatric telephone triage protocols. Dr. Schmitt’s presentation, entitled “Red Flags: Diseases and Symptoms Not to Miss,” was professionally delivered and well received, setting the tone for the rest of the conference.

Following a morning break in the exhibit hall, Dr. Patrick Carolan, an Emergency Department physician, talked about “Pediatric Trauma.” He was followed by nurse practitioner Nancy Fox Carlson, with the topic “Fever Phobia: When To Worry and When Not To.”

After lunch, Dr. Schmitt returned to the podium, giving advice and recommendations for how telephone triage practitioners can “bulletproof” their call process in order to minimize the risk and impact of lawsuits. His advice gave the audience much to consider in this litigious age. Cynthia Brady, CNP, talked about infant wheezing and the delineation between wheezing and asthma.

Following an afternoon break, Dr. Peter Dehnel engaged an eager and still attentive crowd with his presentation entitled, “Is This Colic, or Should I be Worried.” Closing out the first day’s speakers was risk management specialist Janice Netterfield, a risk management RN with Midwest Medical Insurance Company (MMIC), experienced in process improvement, customer service, and quality initiatives. The day concluded with a reception, compliments of the Children’s Physician’s Network, which provided an informal opportunity for networking with the attendees, speakers, and vendors.

The second day opened with a special, reservation-only, sold-out breakfast with keynote speaker Dr. Barton Schmitt. Dr. Schmitt responded to written questions submitted the previous day. With questions ranging from the practical to highly technical, Dr. Schmitt tapped into his years of experience and answered as many questions as time allowed.

The day’s regular sessions then began with Dr. Steven Poole’s presentation on “Selecting and Training Telephone Care Providers.” Connie Robertson, RN, addressed the sometimes overlooked segment of pediatrics, adolescents, with her frank presentation, “Adolescent Assessment: Rapport, Confidentiality, and Sexuality.” Following a morning break with the exhibitors, Dr. Poole resumed the speaker’s platform to cover “Quality Improvement and Ongoing Staff Education.” Dr. Read Sulik, a child and adolescent psychiatrist, then spoke about “Common Childhood Mental Health Problems,” focusing attention on important issues, which are also sometimes overlooked or minimized.

Following lunch, RN Kelli Massaro shared her presentation about “Clinical Excellence in Telephone Triage.” Concluding the day – and the conference – were Julie Cartwright, CEO and Thomas Reed, COO, of HMS Northwest. Their topic was “The Paradox of Telehealth Nursing Practice,” offering a fitting conclusion to an information-packed conference.

Vendors participating in the conference included LVM Systems, The MMIC Group-Technology Solutions, Merck Vaccine Division, 1Call-a division of Amtelco, Mead Johnson Nutritionals, McKesson Health Solutions, Kaiser Permanente, HMS Northwest, Children’s Hospitals and Clinics, Enrica Fish Bookstore, and MedImmune.

Many attendees commented that this was the best conference on telephone triage they had ever attended. Although the dates for next year’s conference have not yet been announced, there was great anticipation for it, with several attendees already planning to attend.

Peter Lyle DeHaan, PhD, is the publisher and editor-in-chief of AnswerStat. He’s a passionate wordsmith whose goal is to change the world one word at a time.

[From the Summer 2004 issue of AnswerStat magazine]