Nourishing Kids Using Telemedicine

An article posted on Heartland Telehealth Resource Center site, describes how the Kansas University Pediatric Telemedicine Feeding Clinic made up of an interdisciplinary team of therapists, psychologists, dietitians, and nurses, is addressing feeding and eating issues in children across Kansas and especially children in rural areasDr. Ann Davis a pediatric psychologist who specializes in the care of children with chronic or life limiting illnesses has worked at the Feeding Clinic for more than ten years. She said about half of the patients at the clinic have some kind of feeding tube and the clinic’s goal is to get the children off of the feeding tube and eating orally.

“We see children with autism or other developmental issues, babies that are born or spend time in the NICU and have trouble eating by mouth maybe because of a cardiac condition, and older children who are just picky”, according to Davis.

Davis reports that telemedicine has been available as a treatment option at the clinic for about two years. The KU Feeding Team has four slots a week to meet with patients. In the past, the slots would include the occasional patient video conference. But Davis has seen a big increase in people using telemedicine.

“In the past two to three months, the number of feeding teams we do via telemedicine has just shot up,” Davis said. She estimates that about 30 percent of the Feeding Team consultations now happen via telemedicine.

Davis speculates that telemedicine visits might be increasing because the visit with the feeding team is so efficient. During a telemedicine consultation, the Feeding Team gathers at the clinic location to watch the child through a monitor located at a remote location, usually at the child’s school.

The child than eats and drinks as the experts pay close attention to any difficulties the child might encounter, any special utensils needed, and any problem foods that might contribute to feeding factors. The team then gives the parent or caretaker specific instructions and recommendations to improve the child’s eating.

Davis notes that all treatment recommendations are made with the approval of all providers on the team such as the psychologist, dietician, occupational therapist, and nurse practitioner. In other feeding clinics, a parent might hear one recommendation from the dietician, but something else from the psychologist, but this does not occur at the KU Feeding Clinic.

As Davis explains, “We brainstorm right there with the parents about how to best come up with treatment recommendations so the parents don’t leave and feel like they are bouncing among providers.”

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