Guided by the belief that families are essential partners in their children’s care, the Children’s Treatment Network (CTN) of Simcoe York, located in southern Ontario, and KidsAbility in Waterloo Region and Guelph-Wellington, are launching exciting family portals with the assistance of Waterloo-based GoldCare.
GoldCare’s family portal is an important way of facilitating the journey of parents of children with special needs. The new system will be instrumental in building trust and collaboration between families and providers. It will also increase transparency, accountability, support and access to information and services.
According to Brad Bell, GoldCare’s chief technology officer, the portal equips healthcare providers with an effective way of understanding the special needs of a child. At the same time, it allows parents, who know their children best, to actively interact with caregivers through the healthcare record.
Phase 1 of the pilot project will provide a subset of the chart, giving parents access to some of the clinicians’ assessment reports and progress updates. Upon completion of an evaluation, and staff and caregiver surveys, Phase 2 will provide access to additional documents in the record, which will be determined by each individual site. The first parent login is slated for May 2014.
The online area of communication notes will present a new learning experience for everyone involved in the pilot, says Bell. Parents will be able to write a note resembling something between a chat message and an email, to which team members can reply.
Michelle Biehler, director, access and health records, CTN, says the pilot is an important part of CTN’s commitment to family-centred care. It will enable family members to seek and provide information, reach out and talk to other participating families, and connect with providers.
“Research indicates that family involvement results in better outcomes for children,” Biehler observes. “This portal is an important piece of our overall approach to family engagement. It will give families another way of being involved in their children’s care.”
CTN is addressing privacy compliance to ensure the appropriate sharing of relevant health information by establishing passwords and providing orientation for piloting families. An evaluation following the pilot will address costs and resources required to sustain implementation.
KidsAbility is one of 20 Children’s Treatment Centres in Ontario that provides rehabilitation services for children up to 18 years of age in Waterloo Region and Guelph-Wellington, and a member of the Ontario Association of Children’s Rehabilitation Services. Barbara Hill, KidsAbility’s director, information technology and lead, Centre of Excellence, says the portal enables parents to access information at any time and supports the journey of the younger demographic served by the organization.
“The family portal presents an option for a secure exchange of information and is a meaningful strategy for engaging parents in service delivery,” explains Hill. “Some of these families don’t get to sit down and think about the following day until 10 or 11 at night, so it’s an easy way to support the lifestyle of the younger generation that is extremely busy and accustomed to leveraging technology.”
Actively involved with CTN’s Family Engagement council, Theresa Sanders of Lefroy, Ontario, is enthused about her role as parent lead in the pilot project, which involves assisting other parents to use the portal.
“I’m very excited that we’re so close,” she says. “We live in a world where it’s easy to communicate all the time, but I’m still dealing with service providers that don’t have access to our electronic record or aren’t using it on a regular basis. The family portal means immediate access to our team and a secure and confidential environment that allows me to update them on any information they need in order to help my daughter reach her goals. At the end of the day, every family wants to be seen as an equal partner.”