Federal Program Encourages Health Service Innovations on Developmental Disabilities

Article excerpt

As you patiently sit in the waiting room, or while driving from one specialist's office to the next, do you ever think of ideas that would improve or streamline the health services your child receives? As a clinician who serves children with developmental disabilities, have you ever developed an effective way to communicate with parents or a unique way to coordinate or deliver care to your patients? From the waiting room to the examining table, and from the doctor's visit to the next therapeutic consultation, there is always room for improvement in the delivery of health services.

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality's (AHRQ) Health Care Innovations Exchange (www.innovations.ahrq.gov) is a comprehensive program that documents these proven innovative approaches to health delivery. Innovations Exchange helps accelerate the development and adoption of innovation and supports AHRQ's mission to improve the safety, effectiveness, patient-centeredness, timeliness, efficiency, and equity of care. In addition, it supports AHRQ's focus on reducing disparities in healthcare and health among racial, ethnic, and low socioeconomic groups. Innovations Exchange also is the home of AHRQ Quality Tools, a searchable database of practical tools that help with the assessment, measurement, and promotion of healthcare quality improvement.

As a parent of a child with special needs, you are most likely familiar with recent advances in technology. Many parents are using new technology to meet the demands of everyday life, such as e-mailing teachers. Clinicians can also use these technologies to improve and streamline children's care. Such uses may include e-mail to communicate with patients between visits; smart phone features to contact parents in an emergency; and online coordination of primary and secondary services.

Despite the rapid advances in technology seen in recent years, in the broader healthcare community, change or improvement is often very slow. One reason is that very few venues offer opportunities to share innovative "ideas that work." Few innovative ideas reach beyond individual institutional walls or stretch across healthcare settings.

If information on innovations is shared, new processes may be adapted from one healthcare setting to another. A process for meeting patients' needs that works in a hospital could be tweaked for use in a long-term care facility. What works in a community health center might be adapted for a small private practice. The AHRQ Health Care Innovations Exchange allows patients and clinicians to search for innovative solutions to challenges, learn about the development of an innovation, network with innovators, and contribute ideas for innovation to the website.

COORDINATED CARE

Dr. Gonzalo Paz-Soldan of the Arlington Pediatric Center in Arlington, Virginia, is an example of an innovator who identified a need and developed an innovative method of addressing challenges to children with special needs and their caregivers. Low-income families and families of children with developmental disabilities often must travel to multiple facilities to receive various healthcare services. The Arlington Pediatric Center recognized this challenge and now provides comprehensive, coordinated services at a single site.

The Arlington Pediatric Center's program identifies and tracks children from low income families and those who are severely affected by special healthcare needs. The program assigns the children to care coordinators and uses a multidisciplinary team to provide culturally appropriate comprehensive care. Since implementation in 2005, anecdotal reports from staff and families indicate that the program has helped families better understand their children's medical conditions and treatment plans. As a result, the Center has seen improved compliance with treatment regimens.

In 2005, Arlington Pediatric Center served 58 children with special healthcare needs. …