By Dr. Mary McAteer
Spirit & Place allows our community to explore one yearly theme through a variety of lenses. With this year’s theme being “home,” The Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics would like to take the opportunity to educate families about an aspect of home they might not be familiar with: the medical home.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) believes that the medical care of infants, children, and adolescents should be accessible, continuous, comprehensive, family-centered, coordinated, compassionate, and culturally effective. It should be delivered or directed by well-trained physicians who provide primary care and help to manage and facilitate all aspects of pediatric care. The physician should be known to the child and family, and should be able to develop a partnership of mutual responsibility and trust with them. These characteristics define the “medical home,” and stand in contrast to care provided through emergency departments, walk-in clinics, and other urgent-care facilities. Though such care is sometimes necessary, it is more costly and often less effective.
A medical home is not just a building or place – it extends beyond the walls of a clinical practice. A medical home builds partnerships with clinical specialists, families, and community resources. The medical home recognizes the family as a constant in a child’s life, and emphasizes partnership between health care professionals and families. A medical home is where everyone in the office knows your name when you call, welcomes you, and encourages your input. It is a place where your family’s priorities and traditions will be respected, and your child is able to express his feelings, even when it takes time. Further, if needed, a medical home helps you get connected to other health care professionals or community resources and stays with you through the journey.
When you have the healthiest child on your block and your family is humming along in wellness, your medical home can help you with routine health screenings, safety information and sports physicals. There are many sources of information that are confusing and may not be rooted in solid science, and your doctor can help put new or controversial information into perspective. When a child goes to school and is not functioning in a given area, your doctor can help narrow down the concern and chart a course to assist you. If a tragedy befalls a family member, or a tragedy within the community hits a child especially hard, having a trusted professional to talk to may offer valuable support.
Where this model shines the brightest is with our children who have special health care needs. When a child receives care through multiple providers, or has more complex needs at school or at home, a medical home that provides a central location and oversight for all the child’s health needs and information can be a valuable asset. The concept of the medical home introduces a pediatrician’s voice into the conversation, and fosters relationships that allow a doctor to help advocate that while a child may need a special form of care, he or she is still capable of succeeding socially and academically.
Many people consider their home a place of comfort and security – a place where they can be open and honest and not feel threatened. That feeling should extend to your family’s doctor’s office. It should be a place you feel safe and secure, and a place where you feel comfortable enough to talk about anything that might be affecting the health of your family. A medical home, where you can establish a lifelong relationship with a team of care providers, is the ideal place to find this atmosphere.
INAAP is an organization of over 800 pediatricians throughout Indiana who are committed to improving children’s health through collaborating with each other, advocating for health care policies, and using dependable resources of science to disseminate good medical advice. We meet every month, discussing action items to improve children’s health care, writing articles, hosting medical meetings, and interfacing with lawmakers and other health policy experts. We work within the American Academy of Pediatrics, the originator of the medical home concept. For further resources, check out http://www.MedicalHomeInfo.org, or contact our Executive Director, Chris Weintraut at email@example.com.