By Tom Ballard, Chief Alliance Officer, PYA
If you’re a parent, you have no doubt experienced times when it was late into the evening, your child was sick, and you did not know if you should make a trip to the hospital emergency room (ER) or wait and call the pediatrician the next morning.
Those are uncertain and emotion-filled times for parents that are enhanced by the limitations of “after hours” services currently available. That’s about to change with a new company that is opening its virtual doors, so to speak, to help address those anxious and uncertain occasions. Its name is Anytime Pediatrics, and it is the brainchild of Knoxville resident Mick Connors, a Pediatric Emergency physician who was on the staff of East Tennessee Children’s Hospital (ETCH) for 14 years.
The enterprise goes “live” April 16.
The new enterprise, which Mick and his wife Angie have bootstrapped thus far, is a telemedicine-based offering that will initially be piloted in Tennessee. When a child is ill or injured, parents can visit a pediatrician they can trust from their mobile device or desktop computer.
The rollout that begins today (April 2) has two components. Anytime Pediatrics is partnering with Team Health Call Center where nurses will suggest a visit to Anytime Pediatrics if indicated for children served by Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital in Memphis. In addition, the start-up is also offering their service directly to any person located in Tennessee that needs to access a pediatrician after normal business hours.
“Our goal is to get the pediatrician reengaged in ‘after hours’ service,” Mick says. “We are eager to get your pediatrician to offer these visits, and offer parents guidance how to care for their child or recommend when they need to go to the ER…” It’s an area he knows well.
For the native of Fort Wayne, IN, who was the seventh of eight kids, Anytime Pediatrics is much more than a business he’s starting. It is what Mick describes as “a passion for pediatrics that I just can’t shake.” The passion was kindled by the death of a brother after a three-year struggle with Wilms’ Tumor, a cancer of the kidneys. The brother died shortly before Mick was born.
“I listened to the stories my parents told of their trials and tribulations with medicine,” he says. So, Mick’s sole focus during studies at the University of Notre Dame and the Medical College of Virginia was to become a pediatric oncologist. Those plans changed abruptly when the first patient he saw during a rotation in Atlanta was dying of the same disease that killed his brother.
“I decided to shift to pediatric emergency medicine,” Mick says. “It provided a platform for advocating for kids and to care for them when they are ill or injured.”
While at ETCH, Mick started Pediatric Analgesia & Sedation Specialists PLLC, a business focused on pediatric sedation services. “We were sedating kids with cancer,” he explained. “It was another God moment; I was relieving pain and anxiety for kids with cancer. I felt like it was where I was meant to be but also was difficult personally as I learned that pediatric cancer doesn’t go away.”
Mick’s first start-up grew from 600 children in 2004 to 3,200 when the business was sold to the remaining physicians as Mick was recruited to Connecticut Children’s Medical Center to start a similar program. Personal factors led the family to return “home” to Knoxville in 2015, and Mick continues to work as a Pediatric Emergency Room Physician in Chattanooga; Dayton, OH; and Washington, DC while he starts this new venture.
Anytime Pediatrics approach is simple. The parent goes online, enters relevant information, and the “call” is routed to their pediatrician first, if he or she is taking calls and if not, the call is routed to a Tennessee-licensed pediatrician employed by the company. Either way, the family will be ensured to see a pediatrician they can trust.
“My experience and medical studies have shown that 90 percent of what we do after hours is the care and/or parental reassurance a pediatrician can offer via telemedicine,” Mick says. Still, for the anxious mother or father, the $60 per call fee is less costly and more convenient than other offerings which often will not include the expertise of a pediatrician. Parents can receive a school note for their child, a work note and, if appropriate, a prescription.
“We see it as a win-win for everyone – parent, pediatrician and healthcare system,” Angie says. The first two are fairly obvious, the third is a reference to the cost of a visit to the ER.
Angie is the company’s Chief Operating Officer, while Mick is Chief Executive Officer. It’s a division of responsibilities that served them well during their previous start-up.
As noted above, Mick’s goal is to reengage pediatricians in the “after hours” work, and the company has several options to encourage them to do so.
“The pediatrician does not have to go all-in,” Angie explains. “You as a pediatrician can decide from several options.” They range from a practice that does not want to take “after hours” calls itself but wants to offer the service to its patients using Anytime Pediatrics cadre of physicians. The practice could also decide that it wants to take calls during certain periods, say Monday and Wednesday nights between 6 and 11 p.m., or it can participate at all times. Routing will occur accordingly.
“There has been more interest than we ever expected,” Angie says.
The directives the Connors gave to CodeTank Labs, the developer of the software platform, were that it had to be “super easy to use” and also HIPAA compliant, a reference to the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 that provides data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.
What do parents need to use Anytime Pediatrics? Just a smartphone or a computer with a camera and of course, a child they are concerned about.