Winter 2006

Access Center: Expediting Transport

In the past two years, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital physicians, nurses and administrators have worked together to create the Access Center, making the process of referring and transporting pediatric and obstetric patients far faster and more efficient, and leading to a 20 percent increase in the number of patients transported and an increase in satisfaction among referring physicians.

"We've gotten a lot of positive feedback from referring physicians out there," says Christa Thomas, R.N., transport coordinator for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital and the Center for Mothers and Newborns. "Doctors say, 'You are so fast.' One pediatrician in Santa Barbara was really excited that we could accept, dispatch and get to him more than an hour faster than a team from Los Angeles."

This was exactly the plan when UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital created the Access Center, Thomas says. Two teams of pediatric critical care nurses work closely with attending physicians 24 hours a day to triage calls, provide physician referral, initiate the admission process and dispatch one of three custom-built critical care ambulances.

"We are now able have an ambulance and a team out the door in an average of 32 minutes, which we are pretty happy about," Thomas says. "Sometimes the transport team is dispatched while the referring physician is still on the phone with the attending."

The ambulances are fitted with state-of-the-art incubators with a heated, gel-filled mattress, a transport ventilator and a nitric oxide module. Pediatric patients are transported on specially designed gurneys that act as "mini-ICUs on wheels," Thomas says.

Transport teams are also well versed in the healing art of compassion. "We recognize how scary and stressful a transport may be for a child and his or her family," Thomas says. Each child receives a Transport Bear Buddy that wears the transport team logo. Older kids have access to DVDs, games and toys. Parents of newborns are given digital photos of their baby. "We are very much aware that we are the first contact that kids and parents will have with UCSF," Thomas says.

Before the creation of the Access Center, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital outsourced the dispatch function. "We couldn't get the efficiency we wanted, and we couldn't gather the data we needed to improve," Thomas says. Moving the whole process in-house has let them do the kind of quality control and customer service that they have yearned for, she says.

The number of children transported has now risen to about 1,500 per year, a number that has increased partly because of the greater reach of the program. Since the creation of the Access Center, UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital has created collaborations with more than 40 new hospitals throughout the region, bringing the number of such collaborations to 170, Thomas says. The Access Center commonly arranges admissions and transportation for children from throughout California, Nevada, Oregon and Hawaii.

The speed and reliability of the new center have themselves led to an increase in admissions, Thomas says, because physicians can count on the Access Center to quickly confirm that a child can be admitted and transported. "They don't have to call a lot of facilities to find one that works."

In the future, the Access Center will continue to improve the admission and transportation process, and will add transport teams when necessary. Eventually, Thomas hopes they will be able to make the leap in speed of access that a helicopter and helipad would provide.

For more information, contact Christa Thomas at (415) 353-1246.

Related Information

News Releases

Renowned Children's Hospital Surgeon Lauded by AAP, Surgeons
Renowned fetal surgeon Michael R. Harrison, M.D., was honored this fall by two of the nation's most prestigious medical professional organizations, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Surgeons, for his contributions to both fields.

Bloomingdale's Opening Raises Over $200,000 for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital
The Grand Opening Gala for Bloomingdales in San Francisco garnered more than $200,000 in donations for UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital. The funds will help children suffering from life-threatening illnesses.