VirtualPediatrics offers on-screen urgent care services from doctors

Leander resident Mary Kathryn Allen and her daughter engage with a doctor at the Urgent Care for Kids telepod.

Leander resident Mary Kathryn Allen and her daughter engage with a doctor at the Urgent Care for Kids telepod.

In June, Urgent Care for Kids is launching VirtualPediatrics, a multi-faceted program offering patients screen time with pediatricians as a faster and sometimes cheaper alternative to in-person meetings. VirtualPediatrics will be able to be accessed at home or at the clinic in a special room called a “telepod.”

“[VirtualPediatrics] is a really special project for us because we have a lot of families that do travel quite a bit to see us,” said Melissa Bauman, the vice president of marketing and customer service for the company.

Urgent Care for Kids began in 2011 and now has 10 locations in the Dallas, Houston and Austin areas—including a clinic in Cedar Park. Bauman said the company is “100 percent” geared toward children.

She said Urgent Care for Kids chose its Cedar Park clinic as its first telepod location because of the experienced team based there. Additionally she said the clinic has many loyal patients.

“It’s nice to be able to give them something like this,” she said. “It’s just one more way we’re improving what we do today.”

DIAGNOSIS IN A TELEPOD



While Bauman said the wait time at the Cedar Park urgent care is typically short, the ability to offer telemedicine nearly eliminates wait time altogether.

The telepod is a private room for families to enter to speak with an in-system pediatrician live on a screen.

Bauman said all of the pediatricians available through VirtualPediatrics are located in an Urgent Care for Kids clinic. When a patient would like to see a virtual provider, alerts go to providers at the different clinics, and the first available one accesses the system.

“The idea with this is parents don’t have time to wait, especially if they have a sick child,” Bauman said.

Diagnostic equipment such as wireless otoscopes and stethoscopes are available in the room, and medical professionals at the clinic or over the screen will coach parents or guardians on how to use the tools. The on-screen pediatrician reads the results of the tools and can provide a diagnosis and prescribe medicine for the patient.

“Health care’s just constantly changing, and we’ve always wanted to make sure we’re adapting to those changes and staying at the forefront of what our patients need,” Bauman said.

AT-HOME CARE



In addition to the telepods, VirtualPediatrics will include a program for patients to access care without leaving their homes. Bauman said this will be particularly useful for Urgent Care for Kids to reach children in rural areas; she said their clinics see patients that drive a significant distance to reach their clinic.

“The need and demand for telemedicine has become increasingly apparent,” said Kevin Pearce, president of Urgent Care for Kids. “It’s available for adults, but specialized, pediatric care is an area that is
underserved.”

At-home patients will be able to go to the company’s website on a device, enter some information and then enter a “virtual waiting room” before a provider is available to speak with them.

Bauman said if a patient online needs a swab or other test, they will be able to come into the office for the tests.

She said whether a patient is best served at home, in person or in the telepod is up to the provider’s discretion and can vary depending on the visit.

Virtual appointments and telepod visits both are covered by most insurance, Bauman said. Urgent Care for Kids also offers discounted cash pay options for services, including a lower discounted rate for people completing virtual meetings at home rather than coming into the clinic, she said.

Leander resident Franchesca Bush said in a Nextdoor comment the she manages benefits plans at her work and recommends telemedicine for her employees. She also has used telemedicine for herself and her daughter in the past.

“It’s an inexpensive and convenient way to speak to a board-certified doctor,” Bush said. “Doctors can see the patient, look at the offending issue (if visible) and then provide a real-time discussion [so] you can get treated without leaving the house.”
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By Abby Bora

Abby Bora started at Community Impact Newspaper in May 2017. After working as a reporter, she became editor of the Cedar Park-Leander edition in October 2018. She covers Leander ISD and city government. Bora graduated from Johnson & Wales University in Providence, R.I. with a bachelor’s degree in media and communications studies.


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