Improving access to care through the Telehealth Collaborative

  • Published August 30, 2021

During the COVID-19 pandemic, emergency departments saw a 70% decrease in visits for children 14 years and under—suggesting serious gaps in access to much-needed care, especially for children and youth with special health care or behavioral health emergency needs—even as those needs were likely amplified due to the crisis.

To help improve access to emergency pediatric services, particularly in rural, tribal, and territorial areas, the EMSC Innovation and Improvement Center (EIIC) launched the Telehealth Collaborative in January of this year. The collaborative, which came to a close on June 30, included teams from eight states and territories: Kansas, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Hawaii/American Samoa.

"We really appreciated the opportunity to be a part of the EIIC Learning Collaborative,” says Tamara Bakewell, MA, HERO Kids Family Involvement Manager, representing the Oregon team. “Our whole team, including our family representatives, were able to get input from a wide variety of creative and experienced leaders from around the country—peers we would not have been able to connect with otherwise. “

The teams joined virtual learning sessions every two weeks that focused on telehealth best practices and how to develop and implement a quality improvement project. The projects, which have both prehospital and hospital focuses, are now in various stages of implementation.

“Thanks to our team and the SMEs [subject matter experts] within the Telehealth Collaborative, we're very excited to be preparing to launch an interactive map of all mental health resources in Kansas as well as a virtual community of practice to connect rural providers with pediatric psychiatric specialists,” says Brittney Nichols, MPH BSN, RN, EMSC Coordinator in Kansas.

All of these efforts were supported by the development of a toolkit of telehealth resources and coaching and guidance from the EIIC team.

The collaborative will continue its work in the form of a community of practice, which will meet on a quarterly basis and is open to anyone with an interest in the topic. To learn more about the collaborative or join the community of practice, which kicks off Oct. 26, visit its webpage.