NHCL pediatrics implementing Medical Home, other improvements

16 Mar 2011 | Cpl. Jonathan G. Wright

In the mid-19th century, smallpox, typhoid and scarlet fever ran rampant throughout the United States, encroaching themselves into crowded cities.

Philadelphia was one of the hardest hit cities, where nearly 11,000 of the 460,000 residents became ill and died. One month in 1855, more than 300 Philadelphian children under the age of 12 lost their lives; a harbinger to the rude awakening that child medical care was nowhere near a satisfactory standard. This heralded the establishment of the country’s first hospital dedicated to child care late that year: The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.

Since the 1800s, pediatrics, the practice of medicine for infants and children, has vastly progressed. Nearly every healthcare provider establishment has a section dedicated to pediatrics, and the pediatrics department of Naval Hospital Camp Lejeune is one of the best examples.

“There are a lot of exciting new changes going on with the department,” said Lt. Cmdr. Rhett Barrett, pediatrics department head for NHCL. “As the local population grows with all these new families, we have to adapt to meet the needs of these new patients.”

Various new programs designed to increase patient communication and opportunities to be seen quicker have been in the works. These new changes include providing a case manager for special needs children, extending patient hours to 7 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays and keeping the department open during weekends and certain government holidays. However, the main improvement that is underway in the department is the implementation of the Medical Home program.

Previously implemented in the Family Medicine department, it is an initiative with the overall goal of improving and personalizing patient healthcare, through radically changing the ways the department operates and sees patients. By expediting treatment time and improving patient-provider communication, many medical personnel see the program as the future of comprehensive practice.

“This is what should be the standard for child healthcare,” said Lt. Chris Foster, Medical Home coordinator for the pediatrics department. “The patient will likely see the same provider, communicate with them more and have a better possibility to schedule same-day appointments.”

Medical Home breaks the department into various teams, teams Bulldog and Seal, separating Marine Corps and Navy patients, respectively. Within each team are approximately five providers, which all will have access to improved patient medical records so as to be able to provide the same level of health care to a child regardless if they are the primary care manager or not.

Another feature of the program enables parents to relate any concerns or need for appointments to pediatrics department staff. By using an encrypted e-mail system, wading through various extensions of an automated directory and playing phone tag with providers are a thing of the past.

“You don’t have to take the day off of work and pull the child out of school to go try to get an appointment,” said Foster. “Inquiries are sent through the secure web portal, and if an appointment is needed, it is made for the soonest available time.”

In terms of special needs pediatric care, a case manager is available for coordinating any unique appointments and setting up care at other facilities. Additionally, special needs care conferences are periodically held between the naval hospital, the Exceptional Family Member Program, the Child, Youth and Teen program and the Onslow County School System to identify any variables that might need to be addressed and discuss how to provide better care for the children.

“(The Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery) is pushing the Medical Home program to be applied to as many healthcare departments as possible,” said Barrett. “This is the way forward for primary care, and with the growing number of patients, we not only have to accommodate them but increase the efficiency of care at the same time.”

Since the Medical Home program in its initial phases, patients will not see the changes for some time. However, the extended hours and additional days are already implemented, so the time between needing an appointment and going to that appointment is gradually shortening.

For more information on any of the pediatrics department changes, call the department at 450-4500.