The New Face of Children's Health
Story By: Kristian Jaime
Staying ahead of national health care trends is no easy task, but Children’s National Health System is making the effort and succeeding.
The cultural identity of patients now seeking care in freestanding children’s hospitals across the country now includes more Latino faces. Children’s National is being characteristically proactive in step with its mission that started almost 145 years ago.
“Dr. Kurt Newman, our president and CEO, has recognized the importance we can play in Latino health,” said Martha M. Parra, MSN, RN Vice President of Clinical Support Services for CNHS. “This year, he established a Latino health leadership council and asked me to co-chair it. We want to become the premier destination for Latino families in a welcoming and culturally sensitive way.”
That is no easy task, considering Children’s National treats more than 300,000 patients a year. That prolific number is, in part, due to the fact it is the only freestanding children’s hospital between Philadelphia and Atlanta.
Children’s National is based in Washington, D.C., and is the largest provider of pediatric care in the region, with more than 15,000 inpatient admissions, and 450,000 outpatient visits each year. “Our group has worked to identify our current services and where we want to go moving forward. We studied the number of Latino families, and that made up 13 percent of the inpatient side. In our emergency department, that’s 15 to 20 percent,” Parra continued.
Along with usual host of specialists and surgical resources, Children’s National also boasts more than 300 beds for neonatal and pediatric intensive care units, with an additional two units for psychiatric patients.
Treating a medical problem still starts with getting a diagnosis, and that means opening the lines of communications in any way possible.
“Most of those instances, they represent a family that primarily speaks Spanish. So in order to really support their needs, we have a robust interpretive services department. We even have adjunct services where we have a bilingual phone system,” explained Parra.
Children’s National even uses innovative technology like a video remote interpretation service where providers and families speak via an interpreter on video. According to Parra, those efforts can still be improved, but it is a vital place to start.
For a medical center that, according to U.S. News &World Report, is among the top 10 pediatric hospitals in the nation, defining effective care starts well before any patient visit. That means gathering a compendium of perspectives to establish and improve a family’s experience once in Children’s care.
“We are really focused on patient and family-centered care. Where that comes into play is our parent and family advisory council (that has existed for almost) 10 years. That will develop programs to make sure we continue to hit the mark,” said Parra.
Demographic studies of every stripe indicate Latinos are on pace to become the largest minority block across the United States.
For that reason, the implications of all the efforts by Parra and the Latino health leadership council may find willing participants elsewhere.
“We have an opportunity to provide models for the country about this type of care to growing families where English may not be the first language. We recognize that outcomes are tied to understanding health care services,” concluded Parra.