The Medical Home a Heartbeat of Strength for Children with Heart Disorders
By Richard Scott
September 11, 2012
Children born with heart defects face a lifetime of ongoing care needs. One step that is critical to long-term health outcomes is the use of a medical home for the coordination of the child’s care, according to new research from a leading health research and advocacy group.
Every year, approximately 36,000 children are born with a congenital heart disorder, or roughly nine out of every 1,000 individuals. As children grow older and eventually transition into adulthood, the risk of developmental disorders escalates as well; such disorders may include underdeveloped social skills, difficulties with speech and language, attention disorders, behavioral and emotional issues and other physical problems.
The answer to managing these persistent issues relies on a strong primary care presence, as encapsulated in the medical home model of care, according to the American Heart Association (AHA) in a recent article appearing in Circulation.
“If your child fits the high-risk criteria, go to the physician who coordinates your child’s care to obtain evaluations for neurodevelopmental, psychosocial, and behavioral and emotional issues,” wrote Dr. Bradley S. Marino, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, in the Circulation article.
Ongoing, Comprehensive Healthcare
Today advances in medical care help many children with heart defects advance into their adult years, but the toll of complex heart problems can be severe. They may be attributed to the need for ongoing medical treatment, the physical issue of the heart defect itself, or the stress of living with a serious medical condition everyday.
The article released by the AHA seeks to provide a roadmap for best practices in providing care – and securing healthy outcomes – for such children. One of the top recommendations is to secure the child a medical home, which can enhance coordination among specialists as well as continuously track the patient’s needs.
According to the AHA, two of the top recommendations are to:
- “Establish a ‘medical home,’ usually the primary care providers, to coordinate care between various specialists.”
- “Each time your child visits their ‘medical home,’ their risk of developmental disorders should be reassessed because risk level may change over time.”
In addition to other recommendations, which include referral for early intervention, re-evaluation for high-risk patients, and the potential for vocational counseling, the guidelines seek to help children thrive as they transition to adulthood. With the amount of risk involved, this centers around a well-coordinated approach.
"Your child's cardiologist should continue to handle the physical issues related to your child's heart disease, but other caregivers need to join your child's 'medical home' to ensure the best ongoing, comprehensive care," said Dr. Marino in an accompanying statement.