UPMC Children’s Hospital’s COVID-19 changes rewriting medical playbook

PITTSBURGH — When the coronavirus changed life as we know it, UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh made changes that are keeping people safe and rewriting the medical playbook for the future.

The hospital created a larger telemedicine system and has new processes in place that are helping families like Danielle McKain’s.

McKain’s son, Jameson, has been a heart transplant patient at Children’s Hospital since birth, so they have been being extra careful during the pandemic. They didn’t leave their house until a couple days ago, when Jameson had scheduled blood work.

“That was really nerve-wracking,” McKain said.

Doctors sent Jameson to Children's South, which had cleared out many non-essential appointments and worked with McKain over the phone.

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“My husband sat in the car, and we were very lucky … the hospital was, like, stay in the car until it's absolutely your turn,” McKain said. “We were very lucky to just get in and out of there.”

The broader system of call ahead and telemedicine has been developed by Children’s Hospital in weeks.

“We have broken down the electronic door to increase access to patients,” Dr. David Wolfson, medical director of UPMC Children's Community Pediatrics, said.

Wolfson said a lot of appointments are being offered over the phone or online while families safely stay at home.

Children’s Express Care now has a new call ahead option.

“We use an app called Save My Spot, which allows you to save your place in line,” Wolfson said. “Come, stay in your car, call us in the office when you're ready when you're here, and some of us will come down and actually do a throat culture in the car or look in the ears.”

Wolfson wanted people to know that testing for COVID-19 is not done at Express Care. Families should contact their pediatrician for guidance on testing.