Approaching Children's Health with Specialized Care and Advanced Medicine

Appeared in:
Smart Business LA County

If you’ve ever been inside one, you know that children’s hospitals are special, some say miraculous places, where everything is kid-sized and child-friendly, and even the most critically ill children have hope of becoming healthy once again.

To learn more, Smart Business turned to Diana Hendel, Pharm.D., CEO of Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, one of just two freestanding children’s hospitals in Los Angeles County and among the largest children’s hospitals in the country.

What makes care of children unique? 

The health care infrastructure in the U.S. depends upon children’s hospitals to treat kids with the most complex and severe conditions with highly specialized pediatric specialists and the most technologically advanced, compassionate, children’s-centered care available.

Children aren’t simply young adults. While they often share the same illnesses as adults, children are affected differently with unique medical needs and health issues.

Children need a hospital that specializes in their unique needs with pediatric emergency and trauma services, neonatal intensive care, pediatric surgery, pediatric intensive care, and children’s cancer, heart, orthopedics and blood disorder services as well as outpatient specialty programs for managing chronic conditions.

As children grow and develop, their need for highly trained specialized health care increases as they transition to adulthood. What makes Miller Children’s unique is that it not only includes obstetrics care and one of the nation’s best known and largest neonatal intensive care units for fragile newborns, it’s the state’s only free-standing children’s hospital part of a major health care system, thus ensuring continuity of care throughout a lifetime. In fact, Miller Children’s is on the same 54-acre campus as Long Beach Medical Center, one of the country’s most highly regarded hospitals.

Why are children’s hospitals so important?

Children’s hospitals are indispensable. They treat the vast majority of children with chronic conditions and congenital abnormalities, including 93 percent requiring cardiac surgery and 71 percent with cancer.

Children’s hospitals take seriously our responsibility to ensure children and their families receive the care and attention they require. Whether through a national consortium or enrollment in a clinical trial, children’s hospitals, physicians and health care teams work to uncover complex intricacies of pediatric illnesses. With our top pediatric specialists, children’s hospitals pioneer new vaccines and treatments for common illnesses, chronic conditions and complex diseases.

How do they differ from adult facilities?

Children’s hospitals play several important roles: we are destinations for children who seek specialized pediatric care; the primary ‘medical home’ for children with chronic or congenital conditions; and a ‘safety net’ for uninsured or underinsured children.

While community hospitals might treat some pediatric patients, free-standing children’s hospitals like Miller Children’s have board-certified pediatric physicians with special training to care for children. They are joined by rehabilitation staff, pediatric trained nurses, social services professionals, nutritionists, educators and various other clinicians.

What services help kids adapt to their care?

For a child, hospitals can be frightening. The Child Life specialists use medical play to explain a procedure or test and provide coping techniques to help reduce the stress of hospitalization. They also offer playrooms, special guest visits and art, music and pet therapy. This minimizes the negative impact associated with illness and injury while promoting growth and development using a family-centered approach to care.

Children’s hospitals are often the first stop on a long journey for families with children who have a chronic illness. Care teams at children’s hospitals understand the vital role of parents and siblings in a child’s recovery or in managing chronic conditions. At hospitals like Miller Children’s we have family resource centers and offer parent education and a parent-to-parent mentor program to ensure that families know how to manage the condition and help them connect with others sharing similar experiences.

How are children’s hospitals involved in the community?

Only 5 percent of all U.S. hospitals are children’s hospitals, so there is a responsibility to protect children. Our outreach efforts include health education, wellness activities and community programs that address common chronic diseases, and safety initiatives to promote injury prevention. For example, at Miller Children’s, pediatric care is also extended to satellite clinics, health centers and schools throughout the region.

In what ways can employers help?

Get involved in the wellness of California’s 9 million children. Advocate for medical coverage for the 15 percent of the state’s children without health insurance. Promote exercise programs as well as healthy foods in schools. Collaborate with hospitals and physicians to offer work force education on how your employees and their families can embrace healthier lives. Miller Children’s Hospital and other MemorialCare medical centers offer scores of family-centered wellness programs at the worksite and in the community.