Center for Telehealth
Patient Stories | Richardson Family

Telehealth Provides Indiana Family with More Convenient Option to See Cincinnati Children’s Experts

Jaime and Christopher Richardson want what’s best for their 17 children, half of whom live with medically complex conditions.

That’s why they are dedicated to ensuring their kids receive the best treatment possible from the best pediatric specialists—even if the best is located over 150 miles away. 

After years of challenges, Jaime feels she finally found the best hospital for her family—she found it in Cincinnati Children’s. Until recently, each visit meant three-and-a-half hours in the car, driving to and from their home in northern Indiana to meet with specialists at Cincinnati Children’s. 

She recalls arriving from Fort Wayne to see specialists at Cincinnati Children’s for the first time as part of the continuation of care for one of her adopted children. 

“I was really impressed with the quality of care,” said Jaime. “So much so, we’ve been switching [all our other children] over to Cincinnati Children’s since then.” 

Once she learned about the expansion of telehealth near her home, appointments have become much easier. Telehealth allows patients and families to talk with their doctor over video (from a smart phone, computer, or tablet) using a secure and private software application. These are also called virtual visits.

This form of telehealth allows patients to visit a local clinic and, from there, connect with a specialist who is located much further away. This type of hybrid care is recommended for some types of visits that are not eligible for home telehealth because they require vitals and additional equipment is used to expand the physical exam.

Talking with Cincinnati Children’s Specialists from Hundreds of Miles Away

The Richardsons were one of the first families to benefit from the telehealth-enabled clinic at our new Fort Wayne location within Parkview Health, a key collaboration with Cincinnati Children’s that held its first virtual visit in September 2023. Initially, Jaime thought a traditional telehealth visit, where she could stay at home in her kitchen, would be ideal, but now she considers this hybrid approach a preferable solution for her family’s medical needs. And it still offers the convenience of not having to travel out of town.

“It’s better than driving to Cincinnati, that’s for sure. And I was impressed when I got there with the level of professionalism,” said Jaime. “It was a well-oiled machine. The clinical staff were well trained. The way they interacted with the doctor through the screen and were able to gather vitals—in my mind it was more of a hybrid telehealth.” 

Currently, Parkview Health sees six to eight patients per month via telehealth, including Jaime’s daughters, Josie, 6, and Emmabelle, 11, who meet with multiple specialists across Cincinnati Children’s. 

“The fact that we can save them the time and trip for two of their children to visit specialists is a huge benefit. It’s why we’re doing this,” said Gloria Saldana, a medical assistant at Parkview. 

Together, Cincinnati Children’s and Parkview Health strive to offer the best care for as many patients as possible. For each telehealth appointment, staff members onsite at our Ft. Wayne clinic located within Parkview Health are physically in the room with the family to support the doctor, as needed. 

“We facilitate the exam by helping the doctor with rooming the patient and assist with equipment used to expand the physical exam,” explained Jennifer Delaney, another medical assistant at Parkview Health.

Why Cincinnati Children’s? Doctor Expertise and Bedside Manner

Telehealth has been a welcome addition, said Jaime, and will save her lots of time travelling to and from appointments. But she will continue to drive to Cincinnati Children’s for her children’s medical needs when necessary. And she doesn’t mind doing so because of the compassionate doctors and dedicated staff. 

“Other doctors, they’re walking into the room and I’m informing them. But at Cincinnati Children’s, in general, when the doctor walks into the room they’ve read my child’s file and know what they’re walking into, even if it's a first-time appointment,” said Jaime. 

Jaime highlights neurosurgeon Smruti Patel, MD, as being particularly great, noting her wonderful interactions over the last few months with Emmabelle and Josie. 

“Dr. Patel didn’t rush me. She listened to me,” Jaime said. “She obviously knew what she was talking about and was confident in her own skill set. But she was not arrogant and demeaning to me. She treated me like an equal part in the treatment team.”

During their first appointment at Cincinnati Children’s, Emma needed tubes for her ears. It’s a standard ENT procedure, which Jaime had witnessed before at other hospitals. But this time, imaging scans were ordered. The results showed that Emma had a 70% compression on her spinal cord, which eventually led to corrective surgery and Dr. Patel’s involvement. 

“That’s when I built my trust in Dr. Patel,” said Jaime. “She was fabulous with Emma. Then when I found out that Dr. Patel also did telemedicine in Fort Wayne, I was super excited. It was magic.” 

Dr. Patel, who believes that telehealth has many advantages, wants to help as many people as she can, particularly patients like Emma and Josie who have unique needs and for whom traveling long distances can be difficult and uncomfortable. 

“Going to a doctor’s visit can lead to further stress and anxiety than children often already experience,” said Dr. Patel, adding that telehealth provides nearly equivalent clinical information as a face-to-face encounter. 

“At the very least, it is helpful in identifying up front which patients truly need to be brought in for an in-person evaluation without inconveniencing families that may live long distances.” 

Plus, having clinical staff in the room during the telehealth visit is crucial. 

“The key to a successful clinic visit with this set up is continuous communication with the in-person providers and requesting feedback at each portion of the examination,” said Dr. Patel. “We work together as a team to identify any findings, discuss what these findings may mean and formulate a plan of action for next steps.” 

Most importantly, Jaime said she feels part of the team regardless of the type of visit. Whether she’s in Fort Wayne for telehealth or Cincinnati in person, expert care is expert care. 

“I didn’t feel like my child was missing out on anything [by using telehealth],” Jaime said. “And I have 17 kids with lots of special needs. I’m in these appointments all the time, so I have a reference point.”

(Published May 2024)

Family day at Kings Island.

Jaime (orange hat) and Christopher (on her right) enjoy a day at Kings Island with a portion of their family and friends.