Special Needs Deserve the Special Care of a Patient Centered Medical Home

August 28, 2019
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Written By Kristen Ely, MSW, Patient-Centered Medical Home & Quality Manager at Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center

The Healthcare system is anything but simple.It can prove to be complex and challenging to navigate,whether you are sick or just need routine health services.Finding and maintaining insurance coverage,choosing the right doctors or specialists for treatment,and scheduling appointments around already busy schedules are just a few of the challenges we face to be our healthiest selves. Now, imagine what the parent of a child with special needs goes through.

Parents of children with medical conditions such as asthma,diabetes,Down syndrome, cerebral palsy, autism, and countless other diagnoses have a lot on their plate when it comes to meeting their child’s care needs.Fortunately, caring professionals continue to work to create a better healthcare experience.

Today’s healthcare is moving away from a fee-for-service model compensating doctors based on the number of patients they see or procedures they perform in a day.Instead,value-based care is on the rise. Today’s best practices are compelling doctors’ offices to be as patient-centered and family-focused as possible with the ultimate goal to become a Patient-Centered Medical Home (PCMH) practice.

Seventeen-year-old Gabriel and his family benefit from a PCMH practice.Gabriel was born with cerebral palsy, a condition marked by loss or impairment of motor function caused by damage to the brain. Gabriel’s case is more severe than some.He is not able to walk or sit up, speak, eat by mouth,or perform any daily activities without assistance from his family and nurse team. He routinely has seizures and requires around the clock care.

The family is seen by nearly twenty medical specialists to make sure that Gabriel’s health needs are addressed and that he has the highest quality of life possible.The work that Gabriel’s parents and family go through is nothing short of heroic.Gabriel is just one of tens of thousands of examples of children with special needs living in our community.

The pediatrician’s office Gabriel attends is PCMH-certified and his family has a dedicated care coordinator to help organize all of Gabriel’s care needs.Gabriel’s Mom has stated that without the “VIP treatment she receives [at their PCMH-certified provider],” she would feel “lost and overwhelmed with keeping track of all of Gabriel’s appointments, getting referrals, and accomplishing everything she needs to for her son’s treatment.”

How can your child with special needs benefit from a Patient Centered Medical Home?

Making Care More Accessible
Not every medical appointment can be planned and not every medical need fits nicely into “typical business hours.” PCMH-accredited practices analyze their patients’ scheduling preferences and offer appointment times that best meet the needs of their patients and families.Gabriel’s Mom, for example, knows that she can rely on Gabriel’s doctor’s office to offer a same day appointment or be there whenever she needs medical advice, especially following a hospital visit given the number of serious seizures her son experiences.

A Team That’s In Your Corner
At PCMH-recognized practices,doctors,nurses,medical assistants, and care coordinators work together as a team to pro-actively track referrals,specialty reports, and lab results to prepare for a patient visit before they even reach the office.The patient is regarded as the center of the care team and is an integral part of treatment planning.

Gabriel’s family has an assigned Care Coordinator who serves as a liaison between his parents and the healthcare system.The Care Coordinator works with the family and Gabriel’s medical providers in between visits to ensure all of his care needs are addressed.They also work diligently to help the family overcome any challenges that would cause delays or interruptions to his services.

Providing Higher Quality Care
PCMH-certified practices strive to constantly improve the services and support they provide to their patients.The practice team must use the information and experiences from administering patient care to improve services and patient outcomes.

Gabriel’s family is one of many that are relied on for practice feedback through various means to ensure families have a voice in improving services available to them.These families have an intimate understanding of what the most prominent needs are for the special needs community and should always have a seat at the table to shape policies and decisions impacting their care.

Finding a PCMH Primary Physician
The National Center for Quality Assurance (NCQA) is one of several accreditation bodies providing special certification to practices that exemplify the medical home model. PCMH physician directories are available online, such as NCQA.org,the website for The National Committee for Quality Assurance (NCQA).

Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) is just one primary care office in Broward County that has achieved PCMH recognition status and provides medical care specifically for the special needs population.The Center is a “one-stop-shop” where patients receive a variety of services including medical and dental care,developmental evaluations, nutrition consults, mental health services, and care coordination programs. Visit childrensdiagnostic.org for more information.

Children’s Diagnostic & Treatment Center (CDTC) childrensdiagnostic.com/ is a not-for-profit organization serving more than 11,000 children with special health care needs in Broward County.
As a facility of Broward Health, CDTC’s mission is to promote the optimal health and well-being of children with special health care needs by providing comprehensive prevention, intervention and treatment services within a medical home environment. CDTC is a nationally recognized “Center of Excellence,” offering a unique system of care for infants, children and youth.

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