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New clinic program helps patients with unique needs

For parents of children with special needs, a trip to the doctor's office can be anything but simple.

Children with special needs often require more time with the nurses and doctors, and waiting for even a few minutes in the waiting room can be challenging.

Those are just two of the reasons FamilyHealth Medical Clinic-Farmington has started participating in the Medical Home Project, an approach to providing high quality primary health care for children with special health needs.

"Parents are an integral part of the project," said Dr. Mary Wild Crea of the Farmington clinic.

As of last month, the clinic has care plans for 10 children identified as needing additional services, but the number is expected to grow exponentially in the coming years. Wild Crea estimates more than 100 children at the clinic could use the specialized care plans that are part of the Medical Home Project.

Experts say the comprehensive health needs of children and adolescents with special needs do not fit with the services traditionally offered by the primary care system.

"People are becoming more aware of this," Wild Crea said. "The areas of need are huge."

The name "Medical Home Project," could be misleading, because it is not a home, building or hospital.

The main concepts of the project provide:

• Family-centered care

• Longer appointments for children with special needs

• Communication and coordination of care with subspecialty doctors, therapists and schools

• Connections to community resources, including support groups.

Wild Crea leads the Medical Home Project at FamilyHealth Medical Clinic-Farmington.

"We try to have indicators on our charts so we know who might need more time," she said. "The other big thing is to try and coordinate things with specialists.

"We want parents to be the center of the information."

For example, Wild Crea wants parents to have a detailed binder of information about their child's conditions, including allergies, case histories and specific details about medical conditions. The goal is to help them stay organized with a task that can often seem overwhelming.

The parent can bring the binder with them if their child is staying at a grandparent's house, for example, so if there was a medical issue the information will be readily available upon a trip to the emergency room.

"It is a lot of information to gather and remember," Wild Crea said.

One parent quoted in marketing materials explaining the Medical Home Project was referred to the benefits of a personal care plan.

"We have a care plan for our son that we've used for specialist appointments and hospital care which has reduced the number of questions that we've had to answer repeatedly in the past," the parent said. "The care providers also have all of the information that they need for my son. I would highly recommend that every child with special health concerns have a personal care plan."

The staff at the clinic attend statewide training sessions to learn about what works, and doesn't work, at other facilities.

Wild Crea said once professionals from medical facilities see the project in action, they recognize its importance.

However, it isn't an easy transition.

"Initially, the project is time-intensive but as care coordination improves, eventually it will save time for families and providers and improve the quality of care," she said.

For more information or to schedule an appointment to discuss the project, call the clinic at 460-2300.