Turning Empathy for Complex Patient and Their Families into a New Care Model

Published on in Children's Doctor

Annique Hogan, MD, is medical director of the Integrated Care Service and the CHOP Compass Care Program

Developing empathy for our patients and their families is a cornerstone of humanism in medicine. We wonder what it is like to bring your child to a physician at CHOP and place your trust in our advice and care. Taking this a step further, I have tried to envision the experience of a parent with a child with complex medical needs, trying to imagine what it is like to see not one but multiple doctors, to plan life around appointments, repeated hospitalizations and emergency room visits, coordinating therapies, dealing with insurance, innumerable phone calls, and so on. CHOP has specialists with expertise in nearly every aspect of pediatrics and amazing researchers driven to develop new diagnostic testing and therapies, and to understand the complex diseases our patients face. However, a system with this much possibility has a concomitant degree of complexity. It can be difficult to navigate care within CHOP, and all aspects of care in the larger healthcare system, too.

It is with these families in mind that we developed the CHOP Compass Care program. This new program is focused on medically complex and medically fragile patients who are followed by multiple specialists, require multiple hospitalizations and emergency department visits each year, and who are not already served by an existing specialty medical home. Our goal is to partner with families and healthcare providers, including their primary pediatrician, to coordinate multi-specialty care, help navigate the system, and improve communication among everyone involved.

Every family, every child, is different, and so are their care coordination needs, which is why our approach is tailored to meet the needs of individual families and their care teams. For some, the Compass Care team will be primarily a facilitator— promoting communication, clearly defining roles, and bringing the right voices into the conversations when important care decisions are made. For others, Compass Care will play a more central role by also providing clinical expertise in the care of medically complex children as part of the multidisciplinary team. At the core of our work will be the development of a comprehensive care plan for each child in the program. The care plan takes into account the full scope of a child’s medical issues, how these issues relate to each other, and how they impact the life of the child and his or her family.

I often hear from families how important it is that we are “all on the same page.” Compass Care — with a comprehensive care plan and a care coordination team to ensure effective communication and implementation — is the tool to put us all on the same page.

For more information on Compass Care, contact us at 215-590-8718 or compasscare@email.chop.edu.