The FirstEnergy Foundation has awarded Akron Children’s a $50,000 grant to help increase access to health care for children throughout northeast Ohio via telehealth technology. In addition, a portion of the funds will also be used to support the Akron Children’s Employee Hardship Fund to help the hospital’s employees facing financial challenges.
The grant will directly support Akron Children’s telehealth technology and programs that provide real-time routine and specialty care visits to patients at a location convenient to them – at school or at an Akron Children’s Health Center or primary care office. The hospital has been offering virtual visits from home for several years and, while interest has grown, access to technology continues to be a challenge for some patients, including the most vulnerable populations.
“For more than four decades, FirstEnergy and Akron Children’s have worked together to care for the communities we serve and, while this past year has brought many changes to all of us in many ways, our commitment to helping our communities stay healthy remains steadfast,” said Lorna Wisham, vice president, corporate affairs and community involvement and president, FirstEnergy Foundation. “Our grant aims to support the hospital’s telehealth programs to help remove barriers to care such as location, transportation and time, to ensure every child receives the care they need, when and where they need it and also help Akron Children’s employees who are facing hardships so that they may focus on caring for children.”
The FirstEnergy Foundation grant is part of “Investing with Purpose,” a company initiative focused on supporting organizations that advance health and safety, workforce development, educational and social justice initiatives. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which created health, financial and educational hardships for customers across FirstEnergy’s six-state service territory, and the events of 2020 that highlighted racial and social injustices impacting our nation, FirstEnergy leaders identified philanthropic opportunities through nonprofit organizations that are responding to needs of vulnerable populations.
“Thanks to support from donors like FirstEnergy Foundation, we’ll be able to grow our initiatives that bring quality health care services to more kids where they already go to learn and grow,” said Harun Rashid, chief information officer at Akron Children’s. “Telehealth technology is allowing us to reimagine access points for care that families are already using. For example, through collaboration with local schools, we’ve been able to create school-based health centers that use telehealth equipment to connect students with our pediatric nurse practitioners for basic medical care while they’re at school.”
Another way the hospital hopes to expand access to care is through use of telehealth within Akron Children’s Health Centers and primary care offices. Using secure computer equipment, staff can connect their in-office patients with specialty care providers – from dermatology to orthopedics and dozens of specialties in-between – at other locations.
The FirstEnergy Foundation grant will help the hospital purchase standardized telehealth equipment such as hand-held diagnostic devices to ensure the same high-quality audio and video evaluations can be completed at visits regardless of the location – school, primary care office or health center.
“These devices are key to allowing our providers to conduct thorough, on-demand exams. With the help of an on-site staff member, the device projects real-time video to a nurse practitioner’s computer at a different location so she can see and complete an exam – checking ears, nose and throats, as well as listening to heart and lung sounds,” said Rashid. “While the access point or location of an appointment may look different from patient to patient, the care they receive will be the same Akron Children’s quality.”
Beyond physical care, the FirstEnergy Foundation grant will help Akron Children’s use telehealth technology to close the gap on access to behavioral health services for kids. As more children struggle to cope with the stresses – at home and at school – brought on by the pandemic, the hospital’s pediatric providers and school health services team can offer families convenient and confidential access to our behavioral health specialists via telehealth technology. By bringing behavioral health specialists to more locations, virtually, parents can give their kids the care they need without worrying about how to get them to a specialist.
The FirstEnergy Foundation is funded solely by FirstEnergy Corp. and provides support to non-profit, tax-exempt health and human services agencies; educational organizations; cultural and arts programs and institutions; and civic groups in areas served by FirstEnergy’s 10 electric operating companies and in areas where the company conducts business.