A newly-created endowed chair in telehealth was made possible through a $1 million gift from Hudson resident Marci M. Matthews.

The Marci M. Matthews Endowed Chair in Telehealth will give Akron Children’s Hospital the unique ability to access a broad range of technologies and services to improve access to patient care as well as the ability to expand health care training, the hospital said in a release.

"We believe this to be the first telehealth endowed chair in the nation and we are so grateful to Marci for this generous gift," said Akron Children’s Hospital President and CEO Grace Wakulchik. "Our medical landscape is changing rapidly and the creation of the Marci M. Matthews Endowed Chair in Telehealth will ensure Akron Children’s remains at the forefront of this innovative way to treat our patients and expand access to learning and training."

The chair will be held by Sarah Rush, M.D., chief medical information officer, director, neuro-oncology, pediatric oncologist at Akron Children’s. Dr. Rush oversees Akron Children’s clinical information systems and assists clinicians in the delivery of patient care. She also works closely with the hospital’s medical staff, administration and information technology department on Akron Children’s electronic medical records system. Dr. Rush came to the hospital in 2013 as a pediatric oncologist and has been an active member of the hospital’s physician informatics group since 2016.

"The recent events in our world reinforced to me the need to support efforts to give patients and their families access to medical treatment without barriers," said Matthews. "I really appreciated how Akron Children’s Hospital responded quickly to expand telehealth services to its patients and families. This rapid transformation of care delivery led me to support advancements of telehealth at Akron Children’s Hospital by establishing this endowed chair."

Telehealth provides a broad range of health care services that can be accessed remotely. In addition to traditional clinical support such as well-check visits, telehealth includes remote non-clinical services such as provider training and continuing medical education. Since Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine’s stay in place order, Akron Children’s has seen an exponential increase in telehealth appointments.

Between March and April Akron Children’s has seen an 88 percent increase in the number of completed telehealth visits.