University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children created Interest Cards to reach more families and improve care coordination.
University of Illinois at Chicago’s Division of Specialized Care for Children (DSCC) has a regional office in Peoria, a city that is home to a well-known children’s hospital that cares for many children eligible for DSCC’s programs. Many of these children are referred to DSCC for assistance but often not until the child is older. DSCC’s care coordination teams believe it is vital that these children are referred to our programs as soon as soon after birth as possible, especially those with critical cardiac conditions. DSCC’s Peoria staff had developed relationships with the hospital’s nurses and social workers and presented about our programs numerous times. However, they recognized that hospital staff members are busy with their own heavy workloads; therefore, we cannot rely on them as the primary referral source for these families. Our staff also recognized the need for families’ privacy during the emotional time following the birth of a child with special health care needs.
What We Tried
DSCC’s Peoria staff decided to create an “Interest Card” that could be placed in a common area that parents would normally visit during their hospital stay. The card was placed in a holder and next to DSCC’s brochure. If a family is interested in speaking with us, they can simply fill out the card with their name and contact information and slip it into a locked container that DSCC provided. Our Peoria staff periodically check the box for possible referrals and aim to follow up with the family before their child is discharged from the hospital.
The referral rate from this hospital saw a significant improvement in terms of the timeliness of the referral. In the first six months of implementing the “Interest Card” collection, 15 new families were enrolled as a direct result of this outreach program. Previously, the office would receive only one or two referrals from this hospital on a good month during a typical six-month period. Each of these newly enrolled children were less than one month of age. Our Peoria staff followed up in a timely manner, informed the families of our services, helped them fill out DSCC’s application and enrolled them in our program. Most of these families were eligible for financial assistance with their child’s surgeries, medication and equipment. Additionally, many more families were made aware of DSCC and our services.
Make an effort to routinely visit local hospitals and speak with those in charge: head nurses, social workers, or any personnel that can offer some type of linkage to families with newborns in need of services.