Child Centered Care with Education

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Caroline McGuire, Founder and Chief Marketing Officer

About three years ago, the idea for Afi Health blossomed in Ahaana’s mind. She believes that information is an essential aspect of patient care and her experiences showed her that this information isn’t available for pediatric patients. When she brought this to me, I naturally jumped on board, joining in her outrage that children deserve better. But, to really understand what children need, our team dove into the literature to get a picture of what was out there, what worked, and how patient education impacts a person’s health. What we found not only supported our initial thoughts but also provided us a guide as we moved forward to create what Afi Health is today.

You might be thinking, “the internet has everything, right? There must be material for kids online!” We thought so too. It turns out, pediatric patient education does exist, but it is geared towards parents and is far too complicated for most parents to understand, much less their child. So, how are guardians expected to make informed decisions? And how are children supposed to be involved in a process that is entirely over their heads?

An article published in the journal of Developmental Medicine & Child Neurology detailed a study observing the doctor-parent-patient interaction in the office setting. They found that, although children desire an explanation of their clinical information, their participation in the appointment is often ignored. But, on those rare occasions where the physician did speak directly to their patients, researchers found this engagement improved patient and parent satisfaction and adherence to treatment plans. 

As you are reading this, I wonder if you might be overlooking the participation of the child as well? Naturally, you might wonder, “Okay, inclusion is great and all, but can children really  understand clinical information that adults go to medical school for years to learn about?” Valid, but developmental psychologists disagree. Around age 7, children develop the capability of understanding and agreeing to their medical care. At this point, they may even retain some clinical information that their adult decision-maker.

In pediatric medicine, guardians provide consent and the word used to describe the agreement from the child is assent. This concept may be unfamiliar to you and a study published in Pediatrics shows assent is also unfamiliar in much of the pediatric care community. Many pediatric medical providers report that they typically do not seek assent and some have never even heard of it, which, unfortunately, leaves the child out of the decision-making conversation.

With better patient education, children are able to understand their own health and practice a healthy lifestyle. When kids are properly educated about their health, they are better at taking care of themselves, monitoring their own well-being, and following treatment plans. This, unsurprisingly, leads to improved health throughout their lives and lowers their risk of hospital admission.

So, at this point in our understanding, it was clear that children need to be educated on their health; but what is the best way of doing this on a large scale? The Afi Health team thought back to our own education and reminisced about videos like Khan Academy. Videos are shown to better captivate students, improving learning and retention. In medicine, videos are often used with adult patients and have been linked to improvements in knowledge of diagnosis, adherence to treatment plans, and overall, the patient’s experience.

Now, think about how you feel entering the exam room at your physician’s office. From the time you enter the office to the time you leave, you are your one and only advocate. When asked an uncomfortable question, you can’t just sit back and let your guardian respond. Typically kids, especially kids with chronic illness, have an extremely difficult time transitioning from pediatric to adult care, but this doesn’t have to be the case. When kids are properly engaged and informed throughout their pediatric care, entering that adult doctors office suddenly becomes conceivable.

After reviewing the literature, it is clear that children deserve better. Education is an essential aspect of pediatric patient care and children will benefit from engaging with and understanding their medical care. If you are with us, join Afi Health in our mission to revolutionize pediatric patient care. Subscribe to our newsletter and follow us on social media below and, if you can, donate so that we can continue our work to develop a new standard of pediatric patient care.

Caroline McGuire