ClickCare Café

What a Clinic in Amish Country Taught Us About Telemedicine

Posted by Lawrence Kerr on Tue, Dec 30, 2014 @ 02:51 PM



As a small business trying to change healthcare, we're always on the lookout for interesting stories of regular folks banding together to make the world a better -- and healthier -- place. We're always inspired by passionate providers, thoughtful business models, and quality care in under-resourced settings.

Recently, we came across an especially inspiring practice for, well, all of the above reasons: the Clinic for Special Children in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  Founded by a husband and wife team with nontraditional backgrounds, the Clinic for Special Children serves a primarily Amish community, the members of which suffer disproportionately from genetic disorders. This nonprofit practice is cozied between several farms and looks more like a warm home than a cutting-edge resource facility. The research is assuredly cutting edge however: they've published papers on dozens of topics that push medicine forward.

Just as innovative as the research, though, are the ways that the Clinic for Special Children engages and serves their community. The clinic itself was put up in an Amish "barn raising" and fees are accessible, straightforward, and partially reduced by an annual quilt auction. 

“Special children are not just interesting medical problems, subjects of grants and research. Nor should they be called burdens to their families and communities. They are children who need our help, and if we allow them to, they will teach us compassion. They are children who need our help, and if we allow them to, they will teach us love. If we come to know these children as we should, they will make us better scientists, better physicians, and thoughtful people.” - D. Holmes Morton, Co-founder of the Clinic for Special Children

We applaud Caroline and D. Holmes Morton for what they've created -- it's a quiet inspiration and a model for the ways medicine can exist at the nexus of traditional values, cutting edge approaches, and brave creativity.

In particular, we identified a few key lessons from the Mortons' work in Lancaster that apply to most medical providers, but especially those leading the way with telemedicine:

  • A small group of people can do great things. When telemdicine programs start, the "program"  is often no more than a couple of medical providers taking matters into their own hands, and using a tool to collaborate. As the Clinic for Special Children shows, though, it's not a huge number of people that adds up to innovation or impact -- it's a small number of people that care a lot.
  • Healthcare and common sense can coexist. Reimbursements for telemedicine are increasing exponentially, and the "rational" reasons to collaborate and use telemedicine are mounting. Ultimately, though, common sense rules the day. Just as the Clinic for Special Children has a super-simple funding and fee model, we can always choose to say "forget it" to the administrative, insurance, and bureaucratic nightmares and choose telemedicine because it makes good sense to us. 
  • Ultimately, we're responsible. There is always a reason that something can't be done. And certainly, starting a cutting edge research laboratory in the middle of farmland, that is primarily funded through small patient fees and quilt proceeds, is one of those things that seems impossible. We've seen telemedicine, great care, and medical collaboration thrive in some similarly adverse circumstances. And whatever the circumstances, we're the people who are responsible for our patients' care -- and we're the ones who can make it great.

Want to hear more stories of innovation and collaboration? 


ClickCare Quick Guide to Medical Collaboration


Image courtesy of ccpcphotography on Flickr, used under Creative Commons rights.

Tags: telemedicine, medical collaboration, hybrid store and forward medical collaboration, healthcare provider burnout, good medicine, healthcare collaboration

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