Children in hospital, doctors using technology to navigate pandemic

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MARSHFIELD, Wis. (WSAW)-- Right now, kids staying at Marshfield Children’s Hospital are using technology to connect with family.

Halle puts on gloves (Courtesy Marshfield Clinic).

Doctors are using it to connect with patients so they don’t have to come into the hospital.

With the extra precautions and limited visitors, you might think kids at the hospital would be scared. But technology is helping them stay connected. Two managers say they’re seeing just how resilient kids can be.

Children staying at Marshfield Clinic are allowed one parent, and can alternate between support people every day.

“Being able to change how you approach the child going into the room, and maybe we’re going into the rooms more often,” said Jenny Halle, manager of the pediatric intensive care unit, peds unit and pediatric sedation service, noting that volunteers are not coming and kids may be missing some interaction.

“We know that they are not being able to get that communication with other people or being able to talk to other people outside of here,” she said.

Patients who are there “long term” usually stay a few weeks at most. Everyone must follow social distancing guidelines and wear a face mask.

“Some of these long-term families of ours are not used us always having a mask on in the rooms. And so how do we get to the child’s level to be able to interact and walk into the room and not them being scared of us,” she said.

But kids old enough to read up are staying positive after doing their own internet research.

“Everyone is up to date on things, they hear in the news that kids are not being as affected, which is a good thing for them that they hear that,” said Sushma Thappeta, pediatric hospitalist and medical director of inpatient pediatrics.

The hospital is also staying up to date on the latest developments indicating kids are susceptible to conditions related to COVID-19.

“In their language, we are able to communicate to them what it means to them, what we are doing, what we need to be doing,” she said.

Doctors are also using technology to video chat with family missing out.

“It has been very helpful… mostly because the other parent understands what is going on. It really makes a difference when it’s phone call versus seeing the face on the video,” Thappeta said.

Technology lets them see kids remotely when don’t need to come in.

“We see patients who live like two hours away or three hours away. And that has been very helpful. Because the drive, that is a big thing for families to come down to see a doctor,” she said.

Thappeta used the word “revolutionary” to describe telehealth, and she predicts it will be around long after the COVID-19 pandemic.