ImproveCareNow Parents


Parker's Crohn's Diagnosis - One Step at a Time

Parker going on a zip-line adventure before Crohn's diagnosisParker is an energetic, blonde haired, little boy. Just like many boys his age in Vermont, Parker enjoys skiing, bike rides, grass-stained jeans, and his new puppy Bailey. During the summer of 2014 this perfectly healthy heart-throb of a boy was crippled with abdominal pain, fatigue, and weight loss. By the end of summer all of these horrible symptoms culminated in a diagnosis of Crohn’s disease at the blissfully innocent age of 7. As his family was coming to grips with life with a chronic incurable illness, Parker’s symptoms got worse. He was quickly admitted to the University of Vermont Medical Center and received his first dose of infusion medications to fight Crohn’s.

 

“I don't want this for him, there must be a mistake, Parker is my rock” his Mom, Keri remembers thinking. “As a parent you go through the motions and the emotions of a diagnosis. I think the hardest moment for me as a mom, was being strong in front of him, for him, and the family, and then breaking down when I was alone. I remember one moment, late at night in the hospital walking down the hallway of the children's floor, and I stopped. I could barely walk any further. I had to keep telling myself, one step at a time, whatever it takes to move, feeling so isolated and alone, and from that moment on, that has been my motto. One moment at a time, one day at a time, and one step at a time, to just keep moving forward.”

 

After three long days as an inpatient at the UVM Children’s Hospital, Parker was discharged. He almost literally rode his scooter right out of the hospital. With a huge smile painted on his face, you could almost see the shackles of illness begin to release their grip. The energetic little boy that they knew was coming back to the surface with every giggle that squeaked out of him, and they kept moving forward – one step at a time.

 

As the ICN Improvement Coordinator here in Vermont, I first met Parker just a few weeks after his diagnosis. He was getting an infusion and I had come to talk with his family about ImproveCareNow. Whenever I approach patients and families about ImproveCareNow, my wish is that they will see this Network as a glimmer of hope in what is most likely a very dark place, and ultimately that they will want to get more involved.

 

Through the icy grip of winter, Keri and Parker continued coming to the Children’s Hospital every 8 weeks for infusions. During one of these otherwise uneventful visits, Keri asked about becoming more involved with Parker’s care. Although this question is short in length and easily rolls off the tongue, I feel it is one of the most powerful questions a family can ask. That uneventful visit ultimately lead to one of the most engaging and empowering conversations and relationships that either of us had experienced in a long time. Personally, I don’t think either of us could have ever imagined what was waiting just around the corner. It wasn’t what we were expecting but was exactly what we were hoping for, and certainly something we weren’t going to say no too. This project with Keri has evolved over time and has been a huge learning experience for everyone, but we’re going to keep moving forward – together – one step at a time.

 

I look forward to sharing more with you as our relationship, and indeed our adventure, unfolds.


Communities take risks together.

I am writing this having just returned from several whirlwind days in Chicago at the first ever ImproveCareNow Community Conference. The ImproveCareNow Network has come together in person twice a year for seven years, but this was the first time this gathering was not called a Learning Session—the traditional Quality Improvement Collaborative term for in-person meetings. We changed the name for several reasons, the most important being that ImproveCareNow is now indeed a community. Here are some reasons why:

 

ImproveCareNow is a community

 

We have each of these things in ImproveCareNow and in future LOOP posts I will share examples of each. But one that I didn’t list,which became very clear to me at the conference, is that the best communities take risks together. I want to share a bit more about that here.

 

One of our conference goals was to brainstorm new interventions—in QI-speak, “changes to test,” - that will help us get even more kids with Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis into remission. Prior to the conference, we developed a new list of key drivers—or focus areas—that we thought were most important to improvement. Now it was time to crowd-source the best ideas for interventions to tackle in each area. This tends to be the most fun part of the process!ImproveCareNow Key Driver Diagram with Primary Drivers and Space for new InterventionsThe ImproveCareNow Network has developed interventions together before. But this time, we wanted to make sure our incredible diversity and stakeholder engagement was really reflected in these new interventions. In the weeks leading up to the conference, each center interviewed patients and parents to get input on challenges and opportunities in each Key Driver area. In doing so, they opened themselves up to a variety of feedback; I know this felt risky to some centers.

 

Pre-work from the Spring 2015 ImproveCareNow Community Conference: Learning from Patients and ParentsBut as a community we took the risk together. Prior to the conference, nearly all of our 254 participants chose the three Key Drivers that most interested them. Once we received their choices, we put together small groups (6-9 people) that were as diverse as possible-blending people from different centers and with most groups including at least one patient, one parent, and others from several clinical roles. Planning this felt risky even as it felt like the right thing to do. Would people want to spend almost two hours of valuable conference time in an informal exercise with people outside of their peer groups? Would lone parents and patient at the tables feel overwhelmed, ignored, or vulnerable? Would conversations stall with the minutes ticking by slowly?

 

It ended up being a risk well worth taking. Between 2:00 pm and 4:30 pm on Saturday the low, quiet, steady buzz of conversation eased all of my concerns about people diving in and learning with those very different from themselves. Many observers noted that as  groups tackled the provided questions, the first thing they did was turn to the parent or patient at the table—deferring to their expertise. When each of the three 40-minute discussion periods ended, we worked harder than expected to get each group to wrap up and move to their next tables. And the notes that were shared—and will guide our work in the months and years ahead—are full of some of the richest, most diverse insights I’ve seen in my quality improvement career.

 

Example of Notes from the Small Group Discussions about ImproveCareNow Key Drivers and InterventionsWe work hard to make sure all participants in this community have the quality improvement structure, skills, and tools to achieve their goals. Even more important is making sure the right centers and people connect so they can do more together than alone. We foster this online on our ICN Exchange knowledge commons, on monthly webinars, and at our Community Conferences. Admittedly, this gets a bit more challenging as we grow and we don’t always get it right. But what these collaboration sessions showed me is that community members desperately want to keep connecting across roles and centers and that they embrace the expertise of everyone at the table. They are building their own momentum and will continue to do so even as we get bigger and push our network infrastructure to keep up. So thank you to the ImproveCareNow community for taking risks together, leaving roles and titles aside, and creating a better today and tomorrow for and with kids with IBD.


Interview with Laura Mackner


Laura, can you give us a professional snapshot of who you are?


I have several roles and titles etc., as you can see by my signature. I primarily conduct research as an Investigator in the Center for Biobehavioral Health at Nationwide Children's (NCH). That's about 85% of my job.  I also do some clinical work, primarily with children with IBD, as a child psychologist working with the IBD team and in the Division of Pediatric Psychology at NCH.  This is primarily outpatient psychotherapy, although in the past I have also done inpatient consults and work in the GI Clinic.  Finally, I have an academic appointment at Ohio State University, in the College of Medicine in the Department of Pediatrics, providing training and supervision to psychology and GI interns, residents and fellows. What will you be sharing at the Community Conference?



I'll be leading a breakout session on peer mentoring and giving a presentation on psychosocial issues in pediatric IBD.


For the session on peer mentoring, I'll (1) discuss some of the research on mentoring programs and some of the "best practices" that have been developed from this research, (2) identify some practical resources for developing a mentoring program that exist, and (3) we'll spend most of the session discussing challenges specific to developing a peer mentoring program for youth with IBD.  I'll discuss the peer mentoring program I've been running at NCH, and I hope to brainstorm with the participants in the session about some of the challenges that all mentoring programs face (e.g., recruiting male mentors) as well as some of the challenges specific to IBD mentoring programs (e.g., confidentiality, mentor-mentee matching issues).  Jennie David and Isabelle Linguiti will be joining me to sharing their experiences with formal and informal mentoring and help with brainstorming as well.


For the presentation on psychosocial issues, I'll be discussing psychosocial issues that affect patients and families living with IBD, and how psychosocial issues can also affect health outcomes in IBD.   We know that IBD can affect pretty much any area of life, so I'll be reviewing the research on overall quality of life, emotions, social life, school, and family.  I'll also review research on the risk factors that have been identified that suggest which children are more likely to experience problems in these areas.  Then I'll discuss how psychosocial factors can affect IBD, and things we can do to address psychosocial issues that may also affect IBD. How does this session/focus pertain to parents?  Or how can parents use the information as part of our mission to help improve care.


For peer mentoring, we initially ran focus groups to develop our program, and our NCH parents had a lot of great ideas.  I'd love to hear from the ICN parents, and I hope the information provided in the session will be useful for any parents who are interested in developing a mentoring program.


For the presentation on psychosocial issues, parents certainly play a role in the psychosocial health of their children, and I'll specifically be discussing ways we might be able to improve psychosocial and physical health.




Buzzy: A small tool to help in a big way

Three years ago my son started on Humira in an attempt to get his Ulcerative Colitis into remission. Although it quickly became apparent that Humira was controlling his UC, my husband and I were struggling to successfully administer the drug. Our process consisted of 30 to 40 minutes of negotiation along with bribes and other unsuccessful attempts at minimizing the injection pain. We tried our best to allow our son to have some control over the situation by waiting for him to tell us when he was ready.  In the end, we were just getting frustrated.  That is when we found Buzzy.

 

Buzzy was developed by a physician and pain researcher (www.buzzy4shots.com).  It works on the Gate Control Theory of Pain. Its design confuses the nerves with both temperature and vibration. The theory is that this distracts from the injection pain and interrupts the neural pain pathways. Using Buzzy has reduced our shot time to 2-3 minutes and has greatly reduced the family stress and anxiety associated with this experience. I knew that we needed to make Buzzy accessible to all of our patients who receive injections or infusions to help with injection pain and needle phobia.  With a price tag of $40, our care team recognized that this purchase could be a burden on families already dealing with high medical costs.

 

Our Parent Mentoring Group at Riley Hospital for Children did research using the ICN database to determine the number of our patients that were using injections and infusions as their primary therapy.  We collected data from the infusion nurses and Child Life specialists that had been successfully using Buzzy in the hospital.  Armed with this data and personal experience, we prepared a grant that we submitted to the Women for Riley, a philanthropic group of women that support the Riley Hospital and Foundation.  Our group was then selected to present our grant to the review board.  In late February, we received word that we were awarded the grant to purchase 150 Deluxe Buzzy Kits to distribute to our patients.

 

Over the next year, we will be distributing these kits to this target group of patients and any new patients that start on infusions or injections.  We plan on surveying the recipients to gauge the effectiveness of this device. Our hope is that Buzzy will improve the time spent administering injections, lower family frustration, and reduce the overall pain of the injection. These kids go through so many procedures and experience so much pain with their diseases.  It is wonderful to have a small tool to help in a big way.

 

[Editor’s Note: This story was shared by Liz D - a mom of a three boys.  Her youngest son was diagnosed with Ulcerative Colitis at age 5.  She volunteers her time as a parent representative on the Riley Hospital for Children Parent Mentor Group, where she is an advocate for all families with IBD receiving care at Riley.  A mechanical engineer by trade, Liz has “retired” and loves her role as a full-time wife and mother.  This has also allowed her to pursue her love of all that is artistic and creative.  Over the past 12 years, she has taught both photography and memory preservation classes to both adults and kids.]


My Interview with Melida from the ICN Exchange Team



Melida, can you give us a professional snapshot of who you are?

I have an elevator speech, “My name is Melida, I am passionate about Information and Knowledge Management & Knowledge Creation within research communities.  I believe good data makes all the difference.”  I also have a professional identity:  Melida Busch, MLIS, and Director of Cincinnati Children’s Edward L. Pratt Research Library, of which I am proud. I work with the @ICNExchange team which provides me the pleasure of being connected to the ImproveCareNow community.



What will you be sharing at the Community Conference?
My colleague Sheryl Sheldon and I will be presenting on the use of the ICN Exchange as an empowering tool for all members of ICN to “share seamlessly and steal shamelessly”. The ICN community produces a lot of tools and resources, but until we use them, share them and improve them, they really aren’t very meaningful. We’re hoping to make our break-out session very practical, i.e. “This is how you use the ICN Exchange”, while reminding folks that it’s them and not the tools that make the ICN Exchange powerful. Hence the name for the session:  “You are How Data Becomes Knowledge”…

How does this session/focus pertain to parents?  Or how can parents use the information as part of our mission to help improve care.
Obviously partnering with patients and parents is a key tenant within the ImproveCareNow community. I think increasing both the amount and the diversity of the tools, resources and stories that patients and parents share on the ICN Exchange will have a direct impact on the improvement of care in the treatment of children with chronic IBD throughout the network.

Also, sharing in the commons increases your sphere of influence, not only in the potential number of people reached, but also in the ability of those whom you do not currently know to find your contributions later. You have the ability to make a big difference in your community long term, with what feels like such a small action.



 


What is Smart Patients? And why are we partnering?

Smart Patients logoThe team at Smart Patients has impressed us here at ImproveCareNow. They have proven themselves as experts in creating a culture and a space for generous, information-rich sharing which gives people living with chronic illnesses like Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis (Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD) a safe place to learn and share.

There are many social networks and online communities for IBD, but we have chosen to partner with the Smart Patients team because their custom-built, disease-specific forums offer a truly safe, warm and engaging experience for users. Smart Patients also offers conversation tagging, and clearly defined community norms, which means community members are highly likely to find the answers they need and highly unlikely to be trolled. And because the conversations are arranged using tags and completely searchable, you can always find what you’re looking for.

The Smart Patients team and ImproveCareNow have partnered to create an online IBD community that is supportive and also powerful. The Smart Patients IBD community has the power to improve health and health care systems through patient and family peer-to-peer learning.

Join the Smart Patients community for IBD today. Together, we can outsmart IBD!


The future of IBD research is in your hands

ImproveCareNow has partnered with Patient PrioritiesThe goal of medical research is to find answers that will improve the lives of patients. But how can we be sure the answers really matter if we don’t ask patients what they want and need to know?

ImproveCareNow is committed to supporting research that represents patient and family perspectives. As part of our funding from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the US Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, we are working with leading health care researchers from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Katherine Bevans, PhD and Chris Forrest, MD, PhD (selected publications by Dr. Forrest) to use new ways to engage everyone in the IBD community in setting our direction for learning. They have created a website called Patient Priorities to find out what YOU want and need to know about Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (IBD). You don’t need any research experience to participate.

You will be asked to recall moments during your/your child’s diagnosis and/or treatment when you wanted more information, or had questions that were not answered. Maybe you had questions when comparing two treatment options, or making the decision to end a particular treatment. Any difficult moment when you needed more clarity and information is important for researchers to know about.

Responses to the 10-minute survey are anonymous and will be grouped with many other responses to develop a list of “Learning Objectives.”  Some Learning Objectives may be answered using existing research. Where there is good research to answer common questions, ImproveCareNow will be making more tools and resources for families available through care centers and in our online communities: Facebook, Twitter, here on LOOP, CIRCLE, the ICN Exchange and Smart Patients. Those Learning Objectives that are unanswered and require more research will be added to the ImproveCareNow research agenda.

We’ve heard from many patients with IBD and their parents. It would be great to hear from many more to be sure the Learning Objectives really represent a wide variety of experiences.

Here’s your survey: http://bit.ly/lrnobjs

This is an important opportunity for us to shape the future of IBD research. We will be sharing our results and what we’ve learned along the way, so you can see how we’re outsmarting IBD together.


The Story of Empowered by Kids

Justin Vandergrift is a co-founder of Empowered by KidsJustin Vandergrift believes when you’re meant to do something, doors will open. But you have to be there when the doorbell rings. You have to open that door. And Justin has opened a lot of doors in his life. He runs multiple companies, volunteers at Levine Children’s Hospital, and has made it his mission to deliver hope and inspiration, information and empowerment to families (just like his) living with a chronic illness – like Crohn’s disease, which his daughter Kathryn has

Crohn’s disease, along with ulcerative colitis, is also known as Inflammatory Bowel Disease or IBD.

I asked Justin to share the story of Empowered by Kids (EBK), the non-profit he co-founded with two other parents (Tania Moon and Julia Ament-Cox), to fast-track the delivery of hope, inspiration, information and empowerment where it’s needed most.

The story begins with an ImproveCareNow (ICN) Learning Session and a greeting card.

At his first Learning Session, Justin remembers Mary Jones from Texas Children’s sharing how she designed a card and filled it with greetings from patients and hand-delivered it to kids with IBD staying on the inpatient floor. It was a huge success.

Justin loved the idea, so he partnered with an aspiring artist and pediatric IBD patient back at Levine to design a card and then filled it with greetings from patients. He printed the cards and added them to the inpatient care kits the Levine support group put together. The response was amazing!



“I remember our Social Worker telling me the cards were the very best part of the care kits!”

 

Building on the success of the greeting cards, Justin and the ICN Parent Working Group hatched a plan for a “Book of Hope” - a collection of stories and greetings from parents and patients with IBD, designed to deliver hope well beyond the walls of a single hospital. Enthusiasm for the project was overwhelming! But it was not clear how to pay for it and what the legal implications might be. Sensing the door closing, Justin turned toward the next.

For his birthday, he wished for nothing more than the support of family and friends, and was overwhelmed by their generosity. Recognizing this as the opportunity to bring Book of Hope to life, he teamed up with Tania Moon and Julia Ament-Cox, whom he had been working closely with on the project, and EBK was born.

 

EBK logo

 

In six short weeks, the trio established EBK as a 501c3 non-profit, launched a website, laid out stories from 25 parents and patients with IBD in the first edition of the Book of Hope, and printed 10,000 copies.

They arrived at the Fall 2013 Learning Session with hope in hand, and blew everyone away as they unveiled the Book of Hope and invited ICN care centers to order as many copies as they needed (free of charge) to give to all patients and families with IBD across the network. Today, Justin estimates over 60% of ICN centers have the Book of Hope in stock. And it is always available for free download online here.

The Book of Hope, like everything EBK creates and shares, is designed for parents and patients, by parents and patients. Everyone at EBK has lived through chronic illness diagnosis, and is still on the journey. Their goal is to make it just a little bit easier for those that come after them by sharing tools and information that empower patients and parents to ask good questions and make good decisions; by providing hope and inspiration as a constant reminder that no one is in this alone; and by bringing together a community of people who will continue to support, inspire, educate and empower one another.

Ding Dong…Ding Dong…

Do you hear that? It’s a doorbell ringing. Go ahead open the door. Connect with EBK. They’ve been waiting for you! Here are a few ways to connect:

 

M Troy Tweet EBK

 

In case you’re wondering, Justin still listens for the doorbell. Here’s a sneak peek at some of the EBK doors that will be opening soon.

  • Hope on Demand, an iOS app delivering hope to your apple device
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Book of Hope - Winter 2014
  • EBK IBD Podcasts, combining ICN center highlights, opportunities and best practices

 


Learning & Leading Together

When I’m not leading improvement activities in the ImproveCareNow network, I’m busy raising a family. As a parent of young kids, I do a lot of bedtime reading. Recently, I was reading The Little Prince (Le Petit Prince) by Antione de St. Exupery to Finn, who is 7. After a few pages, Finn just wanted to go back to his other book (I will have to try again in a few years!) but it made me want to reread it after a long time.

 

This quote appears not far into the book:




"Grown-ups love figures...When you tell them you've made a friend they never ask you any questions about essential matters. They never say to you "What does his voice sound like? What game does he love best? Does he collect butterflies? Instead they demand "How old is he? How much does he weigh? How much money does his father make? Only from these figures do they think they have learned anything about him."

 

As ImproveCareNow builds an awareness and engagement campaign aimed at bringing many, many more patient and parent partners into our work, we have such wonderful models for storytelling about the “essential matters”—the story of the whole person, not just the figures like lab results, medications, and BMI. Our Patient Advisory Council (PAC) members so often share their stories as people, not just patients. They articulate their journey with IBD in ways that are wise beyond their years and make us pause and think about how we can try to be wiser and learn from them. Our Parent Working Group members have challenged us to see their children’s whole lives and faces when we look at the data we use to drive improvements. And our colleagues at Empowered by Kids are using their amazing commitment and individual talents to reach other families who need to expand their own “village.”

 

I am off to Chicago tomorrow for the ImproveCareNow Fall Learning Session. Learning Sessions are a time to celebrate the achievements of the past six months, but also to ponder how best to leverage the strengths of our community to do even more together. The essential questions for us now are: How will this Learning Health System reach and engage and partner with many more parents and patients? How can we pair the right people with the right action – bringing new energy and perspectives to how we run the whole network, and how things are done at each individual care center?

 

We know we will be even better at achieving our aims (the most important of which is getting more and more kids into remission!) with more people working with us, sharing their experience and talents and perspective. So as we plot out next steps for ImproveCareNow, I think we need to stay focused not only on “figures”, but also on “essential matters”. Our many parent, patient and clinician partners are already teaching us the importance and the impact of a story. I know I can’t wait to hear from—and really learn about—more and more of them.

 

The better we know each other, the easier it will be to create the future of ImproveCareNow together and to find joy in learning and leading together.

 

See you in Chicago!


DIGMA: Group Medical Appointments

In the decade I have lived with Crohn’s Disease, I have steadfastly steered clear of support groups. It always seemed as though I were resigned to a couple of options in talking about my Crohn’s: 1) stick with my private medical appointment with only my parents and doctor, or 2) cautiously venture into the mysterious world of support groups. I exclusively favored the first option, and carefully built my community of friends with IBD a la patient advocacy and volunteering. And while that strategy worked for me, I only recently realized there’s another way.When Sami and I were invited to participate in the Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters (“CHKD”) team’s demonstration of the group medical appointment (better known in the medical community as Drop-In Group Medical Appointments, “DIGMA”) at the ImproveCareNow Spring Learning Session, we were happy to help. We were admittedly unaware of how a DIGMA session worked; and arguably incredibly naïve about the feasibility and sustainability of a model that – at first glance – seemed to be the very kind of ooey-gooey-woe-is-me support group we had intentionally evaded.

 

Children's Hospital of The King's Daughters at the Spring 2014 Learning Session during their DIGMA demoChampioned by the passionate team at CHKD in Norfolk, Virginia, the DIGMA model has enjoyed strong support from clinicians and families alike. Dr. Marc Tsou was introduced to the idea in the late 90’s when a parent gave him an article about the group model structure, about which he says, “It seemed to make so much sense. I thought of how many times in the day I’d say the same medical information to several families. Say that information six times, how inefficient, then think about how much that group appointment concept makes sense.” Dr. Tsou saw an opportunity to meaningfully build on the clinic’s collaborative culture; “Elements were there, the right type of people and group. The doctors were the ones who said we’ve got to do this, we’ve got to do this, the time was right, it was almost fate.” Fueled by his fearless nurse, Terri, Dr. Tsou and the CHKD team set about bringing the DIGMA model to their IBD families.

 

The first step was reaching out to a variety of clinicians – such as dieticians and social workers – to ensure that the group visits did not just include patients & families, but also a group of diversified care providers. After sending out an email to potential clinician participants, positive responses began to rush in. “For the most part all responded and had someone to come and participate,” Terri says. “Everybody was super receptive to it, they’ve showed up at every one since.”

 

Annette Kulzer, a mom of three boys including 16-year-old Kolin who lives with IBD, has been instrumental in running the group model appointments. “As a parent,” she says. “It opens doors to meet people we would have not met. If we were in another setting, we wouldn’t hear those stories.” An early adopter and believer in the DIGMA model, Annette has regularly provided a parent’s perspective into how the group appointments run. For example, after a group appointment with female and male patients, Annette suggested having separate groups for each gender and for different ages ranges to encourage comfort and participation. Annette and Kolin emphasize the sincerity of Dr. Tsou’s malleability in running the group sessions, and they always appreciate the weight their feedback holds.

 

In addition to the accessibility to a variety of clinicians and retaining certain elements of the traditional solo medical appointment (e.g., a one-on-one physical exam), the DIGMA model had a surprising but welcome impact; it provided novel insight for patients, parents, and clinicians alike through storytelling. Annette remembers a teenage patient who recounted having great difficulty taking the bus to sporting events with her teammates, since she was worried she might urgently need to use the bathroom. The story challenged Annette to reconsider Kolin’s hesitation to ride with his teammates to a game, as she came to understand that her son – who rarely complained – shared a similar fear that had gone unspoken.

 

Jill, CHKD’s social worker agrees that sharing stories can be incredibly eye-opening, and says, “It’s very, very different when you can look into the face of another mom or another dad or another kid, and say I understand this. Okay here’s somebody like me, they’re doing alright.” Dr. Tsou adds, “There was one mom who broke down into tears, she got very emotional, you think gee these sessions no one will share very much, but really they’re sharing their souls and baring their deepest fears. People might be skeptical but it really happens, but that’s super gratifying, a bit surprising, and confirmed to us that we’re on to something and something that deserves the attention and energy to keep it going.” When asked about group session attendees who were unsure at first, Annette says, “We’ve had many patients and parents who come in resistant, but within 15 minutes they’ve had the Kool-Aid.”

 

The group session can also be liberating for patients, who perhaps fear that IBD will be an “albatross around their neck for the rest of their lives.” Kolin enthusiastically agrees, adding, “Telling people what you’re going through helps a lot.” Positive and on target support grows organically from the patient-driven and clinician-facilitated model, and Kolin says, “You’re going to get so much out of it.”

 

While the organizational burden was heavy at the beginning, the team has happily tackled logistical issues to provide this innovative practice to their patients. Dr. Tsou explains, “The group appointment allows for so much more sharing of feelings, fears, and that’s really what so many families want and need and it allows it in the framework of still providing care. We’ve all had to learn a little different way of doing it.” Terri adds, “No harm in trying something, and I would guarantee that if others tried this model, they wouldn’t go back, it really does impact patients and families.”

 

But the potential of the DIGMA model doesn’t stop there: the team sees practical applications to rural communities (i.e., being able to run a group session in a rural community to maximize patients who can be seen), and across medical specialties. Dr. Tsou says, “I think it’s going to be more mainstreamed. It is the way medicine will be practiced in the future, we’re at the leading edge of it, which is cool.” Kolin adds, “I really want it to spread. I was really skeptical of it at first, but I really do enjoy the DIGMA model.”

 

A group medical appointment is, at its core, a treasure chest for patients, families, and clinicians; the ability to offer a holistic, patient-centered, and team-approach to pediatric care is innovative and vital to the collaborative and transparent culture championed by ImproveCareNow. The passion, integrity, and dedication the CHKD team has for optimizing chronic illness care is not only evident, but most importantly completely contagious. “We’re all passionate about our patients,” says Terri. “We were born to do this, it’s been really wonderful. Everyone had the spirit, it was right for us.”

 

 Jennie


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