Mobile healthcare, telemedicine, telehealth, BYOD


Patient Portals for Foster Youth Improve Care Coordination

"Children in youth and foster care move around a lot – between homes, between schools, between doctors’ offices and so on... One of the big needs that this particular tool is addressing is having up-to-date, accessible records for these kids as they move around.”

By Vera Gruessner

- A major obstacle that stood in the way of effective healthcare services for foster children was a paper-based system of medical records, which were cumbersome to update and easily lost. These paper records were provided to foster parents but weren’t always complete or accurate.

Patient and Caregiver Engagement

However, the Ventura County Human Services Agency and The Children’s Partnership and other public and private partners have recently come together to address this challenge. Caregivers and foster parents will now receive secure, electronic access to their children’s medical records through the system, called Foster Health Link.

This system offers a much better resource to inform medical decisions and health care delivery than having social workers bring physical documents to the caregivers. Providing foster parents with access to an electronic patient portal is expected to improve engagement with their providers and ensure the children receive the best possible care.

Korey Capozza, Director of Electronic Care Coordination Initiative at The Children’s Partnership, and Jennie Pittman, Senior Manager with the Ventura County Human Services Agency,spoke with about the advantages associated with offering this particular patient portal throughout the foster community. Have you noticed engagement increase among foster parents and caregivers with the use of the electronic patient portal?

Korey Capozza: “It’s really too early to see results because it’s been launched only a couple of months ago, but anecdotally we are seeing some parents really engaging with the new tool. Ventura County has seen some feedback come from foster parents as to the advantages of the new system.”

Jennie Pittman:  “Foster parents have reported that the system is easy to navigate and that they can find the information they’re looking for quickly.  They’ve let us know how much it means to have critical health information right at their fingertips.” What do you think are the biggest benefits that come from giving caregivers access to their children’s electronic records through a portal?

KC: “This electronic health record is serving a very particular population with specific needs. Children in youth and foster care move around a lot – between homes, between schools, between doctors’ offices and so on.”

“Having continuity between those settings and records is a real problem. One of the big needs that this particular tool is addressing is having up-to-date, accessible records for these kids as they move around.”

“In the past, this was a real problem for parents that don’t know the histories – especially the medical histories – of children who come into their care and, yet, they need to provide and connect those children with necessary care very quickly. That is one of the key issues that Foster Health Link addresses.”

“You would imagine a parent would have that information in a file somewhere in the house for their own kid. They would know whether their kid has asthma and needs ongoing care. But when there are these life disruptions for these children in foster care, there’s nobody tracking that for them. In a way, Foster Health Link is providing that watchful eye on the records and continuity of care that might be played by a parent otherwise.”

Capozza also mentioned that, “Foster Health Link includes data from both the Child Welfare system and the county’s medical system.” Are there any security risks or other disadvantages related to providing mobile device access to patient portals?

KC: “The County explored that in detail in terms of the exact considerations and safeguards that were put in place that would lead to privacy and security.”

“One thing to keep in mind is that things like access to this information mimics the current county process so it’s not a departure from what already exists.”

JP:  “The system is hosted on a secure Verisign-encrypted server – the same type of security used in online banking.  Also, the County ensures that foster children’s information is accessible only to the specific caregivers who are approved to care for the children at that time.” Are foster parents working more directly with doctors to address their children’s health problems? Are health outcomes improved due to this patient portal?

KC: “We don’t have a way of tracking this, but we would hazard to guess that with a better record of care and an understanding of medical history, the foster parents will be able to find [the care they need] and ensure that their kids are getting appropriate medical care.”

“Also, in the case that a child has an ongoing medical condition, chronic condition, or mental health issue, that they’re getting the full range of care that they need and, also, that the care is coordinated. They [the foster parents] can help play that role in terms of coordinating care across a range of providers when they have the full picture of the child’s health needs.”

JP:  “It’s been great to hear from foster parents that they’re using the medical reference material built into Foster Health Link to research the health conditions of the children in their care, and that they’re studying the children’s health histories.  Foster parents can be more informed when they visit the doctor, and that can make a big difference.”


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