Children's DirectChildren’s Direct was established in 2007 to provide centralized communications and simplified access to St. Louis Children’s Hospital (SLCH) services and Washington University (WU) pediatric specialists. In February 2010, the service expanded its availability to 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and also added the new function of coordinating patient transfers. 

Since 2010, Children’s Direct has steadily increased the services offered, and on March 24, 2016, at 7:13 p.m., its breadth of responsibility culminated in a significant milestone—the 100,000th call. 

“That high number of calls is impressive, but for us it is a reminder of how much we’ve grown in the past six years,” says Julie Bruns, director of Children’s Direct. “Since 2010—with the exception of one single month—our call volume for every month has exceeded the same month in the previous year. In March 2016, our volume was 20 percent higher than March 2015.” 

Two factors account for the ever-increasing volume. First, the mainstay services upon which Children’s Direct was built continue to flourish. In 2015 alone, Children’s Direct: 

  • Facilitated more than 7,000 telephone consults for referring pediatricians with WU specialists. 
  • Assisted community pediatricians in obtaining 3,700 appointments for their patients with WU specialists. 
  • Helped provide information to primary care physicians about their patients nearly 3,000 times. 
  • Coordinated more than 6,000 transfers from referring hospitals in Missouri, Illinois and other surrounding states. 

The second factor contributing to growth is the number of service responsibilities that have been shifted to Children’s Direct representatives. Examples of services provided include serving as the communication hub for multiple-party clinical discussions, coordinating urgent after-hour imaging procedures, and handling patient placement throughout the hospital—which in turn frees-up administrative supervisors to focus on clinical duties. 

“Most recently, we’ve been asked to assist with maternal-fetal transports, which entails working with the Children’s Hospital Transport Team and Barnes-Jewish/ Washington University School of Medicine maternal-fetal medicine to bring high-risk moms to Barnes-Jewish Hospital,” says Bruns. 

A 2015 survey of referring providers gives additional insight into why Children’s Direct has become an integral service for many physicians. For questions rating the courtesy, professionalism and helpfulness of both Children’s Direct staff members and Washington University physicians, the rating average was 4.7 or above on a scale of 1-5 given by 33 respondents. One hundred percent indicated Children’s Direct made it easier to obtain what was needed from SLCH and that they would use the service again. 

“In written comments, referring physicians praised our nurses for being personable and helpful, as well as the willingness of Washington University physicians to provide advice,” says Bruns. “We’ll continue to work on all aspects of the services we provide in order to ensure continued good experiences for everyone who contacts us.” 

To reach Children’s Direct, call 800.678.HELP (4357).