Pediatric ER: Decreasing Stress for Both Children and Parents

By: Team T

A trip to the Emergency Room is a stressful experience for patients, and even more so in pediatric cases. This stress is undoubtedly increased when a baby or child is in need of urgent medical care, as they are likely scared and unable to communicate, and are accompanied by a fearful parent that naturally wants the quickest and most thorough medical help for their child.

The initial health concern that brings a child and caretaker to the Emergency Room is frightening enough, but elevated to much more unsatisfactory levels when combined with overcrowded ER’s and increasingly long wait times.

In the United States, approximately 800,000 children visit Emergency Rooms each day. According to national health surveys, 90.3 million patients visited ER’s in 1993, with this number going up to 113.9 million by 2003. Approximately 21% of these patients were younger than 15 years of age. Yet despite this increase in ER patients, the number of hospitals decreased by 703, the number of hospital beds decreased by 198,000, and the number of ER’s decreased by 425. (1,2) And ER visits are still increasing. Between 2001 and 2008, ER visits increased by 1.9%, which is 60% faster than US population growth. Even more, mean occupancy (number of patients in an ER at a single point in time divided by the number of treatment spaces), increased by 3.1%. (3)

With this growth of ER visits, the patient experience upon ER check-in and communication during wait time is crucial to ensuring patient safety and decreasing risk of patient elopement (ie, patients leaving before being seen by a physician or receiving treatment). (4)

This is where TeleMedCo’s platform, powered by IBM Watson, comes in to radically improve the pediatric ER experience.

The interactive platform will speed up the ER check-in process, as well as quickly collect initial vitals.

When a parent or guardian is directed to check in the pediatric patient with Watson, they will be assured that their information has been collected immediately, as well as initial vitals that will alert medical staff if immediate attention by a doctor is needed. If the vitals are regular, the parent or guardian can have peace of mind in waiting, knowing that their child has been monitored from the beginning of their ER experience.

Additionally, the TeleMedCo platform, powered by IBM Watson, can provide parents the option of a “child friendly experience” upon check-in. Watson will know the patient’s age when entered by the parent, and can offer the option to select a “child-friendly” interface. This would essentially be the exact same medical check-in procedure, but with cartoon animations appealing to the pediatric patient’s age group, with child-friendly voice communications. The goal of this would be to engage the pediatric patient to be both more cooperative with taking initial vitals, and to entertain the likely scared or uncomfortable baby or child. This also should be a calming addition to the experience for the parent, knowing their child’s comfort and psychological well-being is being considered.

Another large source of stress for ER patients, as well as an issue that contributes to a slower-check in and longer wait time, is when patients or parents of pediatric patients do not speak English as their first language. In this case, TeleMedCo’s platform, powered by IBM Watson, can also be of huge impact. Besides English, Watson is fluent in French, Spanish, Italian, Brazilian, Portuguese, Arabic, Chinese, and Korean. Patients can select their language option, and quickly check-in their child as well as take initial vitals in their chosen language.

Here at TeleMedCo, we are passionate about harnessing the power of technology to radically improve healthcare not only to meet the needs of the current generation, but for our children and generations to come.


(1) McCaig LF. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 1992 emergency department summary. Adv Data. 1994;(245):1–12pmid:10132568

(2) McCaig LF, Burt CW. National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey: 2003 emergency department summary. Adv Data. 2005;(358):1–37

(3) Pitts SR, Pines JM, Handrigan MT, Kellermann AL. National trends in emergency department occupancy 2001 to 2008: effect of inpatient admissions versus emergency department practice intensity. Ann Emerg Med. 2012;60(6):679.e3–686.e3

(4) Timm NL, Ho ML, Luria JW. Pediatric emergency department overcrowding and impact on patient flow outcomes. Acad Emerg Med. 2008;15(9):832–837pmid:18821860

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