Specialized Children’s Hospitals

Appeared in:
Smart Business LA County

California’s future rests on the health and wellness of its more than 9 million children. Helping to ensure access to world-class pediatric care are the state’s eight freestanding children’s hospitals.

For more about specialized children’s health care, Smart Business turned to Diana Hendel, Pharm.D., CEO of Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach and Long Beach Memorial Medical Center. Miller Children’s Hospital Long Beach, which recently opened a new inpatient pavilion, is one of just two freestanding children’s hospitals in Los Angeles County.

What makes care of children unique?

Children aren’t simply young adults. Often the same illnesses seen in adults are seen in children but can affect them differently. But, more often than not, they have unique medical needs and experience different types of health issues.

This is never more apparent than when a child requires medical care. Children need a hospital that specializes in their unique health care issues, including neonatal intensive care, trauma, surgical care, pediatric intensive care, cancer and blood disorder care or outpatient specialty care for the management of chronic conditions.

As children grow and develop, their need for highly trained specialized health care increases as they transition to adulthood.

Why are children’s hospitals so important?

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

Whether through a national consortium or enrollment in a clinical trial, children’s hospitals, physicians and health care teams work to uncover the complex intricacies of pediatric illnesses. With top pediatric specialists and sophisticated technology, 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 are special, some say miraculous, places where everything is kid-sized and child-friendly and where even the sickest children have hope of becoming healthy again.

The role a children’s hospital plays is threefold: It is a destination for children who seek specialized pediatric care, the primary ‘medical home’ for children with chronic or congenital conditions, and a ‘safety net’ for children of families who are uninsured or underinsured.

While community hospitals may treat pediatric patients of all ages, freestanding children’s hospitals such as Miller Children’s have board-certified pediatric physicians who go through special training to care for children. In fact, they train 35 percent of all pediatricians and nearly 50 percent of pediatric subspecialists. Children’s hospitals place a strong emphasis on family-centered care and have expansive supportive programs and networks offered exclusively to parents and siblings.

What services help kids adapt to their care?

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

Children’s hospitals are often the first stop on a long journey for those families with children who have chronic illness. Care teams at children’s hospitals understand how vital the parents’ and siblings’ role is in a child’s recovery or managing a medical condition.

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?

Children’s hospitals serve as pediatric advocates in the health care community. Only 5 percent of all hospitals across the nation are children’s hospitals, so there is a responsibility to protect children. Outreach efforts may include wellness activities, health education, community programs that address common chronic diseases and safety initiatives to promote injury prevention.

Children’s hospitals also work closely with public health departments to offer education and access to needed health care. Their care also is extended to satellite clinics as well as health centers and schools.

In what ways can employers help?

Here are some ways businesses can help: Advocate for legislation to cover the 15 percent of California children who are without health insurance. Promote exercise programs and healthy foods in school cafeterias and vending machines. Collaborate with hospitals and physicians to offer workforce education on how your employees and their families can embrace healthier lifestyles.