Health-care team forms for kids

GJ, Denver hospitals go high-tech in alliance

St. Mary’s Hospital CEO Brian Davidson announces a partnership with Children’s Hospital Colorado at a news conference at St. Mary’s. At left is Children’s Hospital Colorado CEO Jena Hausman. On the right are Alex Clark and her son, Camden.

An electronic connection between Grand Junction and Denver sparked the announcement Wednesday that St. Mary’s and Children’s hospitals would form a working alliance.

That electronic connection was the one that allowed physicians at Children’s Hospital Colorado to monitor Camden Clark’s fetal heartbeat and speak with his mother, Alex Clark, while she was in an examination room at St. Mary’s Hospital.

Alex and Camden’s experience is far from unique, said Brian Davidson and Jena Hausman, the chief executive officers, respectively of St. Mary’s and Children’s.

In agreeing to work more closely together in what Davidson said was an “innovative collaboration,” the hospitals made formal what has long been an amicable working relationship.

“We’ve been doing it piecemeal,” Davidson said Wednesday at an announcement of the new care alliance at St. Mary’s Hospital.

At the heart of the relationship is the idea that children on the Western Slope can be better served near their homes and without having to travel regularly over the Continental Divide to Denver for treatment.

That was the prospect for Camden’s parents, Alex, a hair stylist, and Mike, who works for a lawn care company.

Had they been unable to take advantage of telemedicine techniques that made it possible for physicians in Denver and Grand Junction to examine Camden’s heart before he was born, the family would likely have had to move to Denver, Alex said.

That would have meant sacrificing the clientele she had worked to establish in Grand Junction and starting anew in Denver with a newborn. she said.

The other choice would have been to make regular trips, sometimes twice a week, across the mountains and, in addition to the inherent risk and inconvenience, there was no guarantee their health insurance would have covered travel costs, Alex said.

They didn’t have to confront the question because their insurance covered Camden’s telemedicine-assisted treatment, which included heart surgery at Children’s Hospital shortly after he was born.

None of the effort behind the scenes was immediately evident to her, Alex said.

“They just started taking care of me,” she said.

Executives from both hospitals later on Wednesday starting digging into the details of doing exactly that for more Western Slope children whose conditions require the kind of care that Children’s Hospital provides, Davidson said.

By working closely with Children’s Hospital, he said, “We can provide the best pediatric care in the Grand Valley at the lowest cost possible.”


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