You live in rural Texas, and your child is having an asthma attack. You drive 30 minutes to the closest emergency room. Will the emergency room workers be trained in the best pediatric practices?

Making sure that they are is one of the missions of the National Emergency Medical Services for Children Innovation and Improvement Center, which is now being led by investigators at the University of Texas Dell Medical School, working with Cleveland University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children’s Hospital.

This type of work has been 35 years in the making, and it has now moved to Dell Medical School.

“Austin has always been a progressive city built on a strong community, and the University of Texas, and Dell Medical School in particular, has been trying to create systems that are innovative and draw on the highest technology and new strategies and approaches,” said Dr. Katherine Remick, the executive lead for the center at Dell Medical School. “The work of (the center) really aligns for that.”

Remick is also an emergency room physician at Dell Children’s Medical Center and the medical director of San Marcos Hays County EMS. She said that while 90% of kids in the United States live within a 30-minute drive of an emergency room, only half of those ERs are pediatric-ready.

If you call 911 or go to an emergency room, you would expect that the person treating your child would be knowledgeable about treating children, but that is not always the case, she said.

“One of the greatest challenges is most emergency care systems don’t know what capabilities exist for children,” she said. Children present with different symptoms; they might have different outcomes. They are not just little adults.

Parents are having to make difficult decisions about whether to stop at the nearest emergency department or drive farther to get to a children’s hospital.

Austin now has two children’s hospitals, Dell Children’s Medical Center, which has the highest level of trauma emergency room, Level I, and St. David’s Children’s Hospital, which has a Level III emergency room.

Dell Children’s plans to open a second hospital in December 2022 at Avery Ranch Boulevard and the 183-A tollway, with a Level III emergency room. Texas Children’s Hospital plans to open a hospital at North Lake Creek Parkway and Texas 45 in the fourth quarter of 2023; it has not decided what level its emergency room will be.

Dell Children’s is serving a 46-county area for the highest level of traumas at its Mueller Boulevard location.

The national center is trying to use data to figure out how to best communicate with medical professionals, public health advocates and government officials, as well as parents, to improve the quality of care.

Its investigators are asking: How can we use technology to better train the emergency workforce in hospitals and in emergency medical services to come closer to or even match the care given at a hospital that is pediatric-ready?

“Our goal is to really bolster emergency care,” Remick said.

The center is also working with the American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Emergency Physicians, American College of Surgeons, Emergency Nurses Association and National Association of State EMS Officials, along with investigators at Yale University, Baylor College of Medicine in Houston and the Lundquist Institute in Torrance, Calif.

With all the partners, they plan to create evidence-based guidelines, tools and strategies to transform the landscape of emergency care.