What's New

24 June 2019

One Door

By Berton Woodward

Loreta Morgan remembers how things used to be for parents of children with special needs in the Ottawa region. The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario (CHEO) and the Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (OCTC) were both in the same building complex, but before they amalgamated, navigating their broad variety of services could be very challenging.

“You can’t expect a parent who doesn’t work in healthcare to know, oh, my child is going to need physiotherapy or occupational therapy or speech therapy,” says Morgan, who has two children with Down syndrome. “And parents were saying, I put my kid’s name on a wait list and when they finally called me, I found we were on the wrong wait list, or my child had aged out of the program.”

Child holding up hand to open large doorAdministrators at CHEO and OCTC were only too aware of the problems. So after the two institutions amalgamated in 2016 under the name CHEO, they decided to find a better way. In consultation with parents, physicians, professionals and staff, they developed the centralized Access Team, a one-stop shop – One Door, as they call it – for client intake, which can efficiently arrange for the proper referrals.

So how is it now? “Since they put in place the One Door program, you just fill out a two-page form with basic information about the child, and they get in touch with you,” says Morgan, a software development manager who was one of the parents consulted. “It’s very simple and streamlined. I’m very happy about the outcome.”

Indeed, the new system amounts to a big step forward, says Claire Seymour, Manager, Development and Rehabilitation, for CHEO and project manager for the Access Team’s creation. Previously, families would have to go from service to service at the institutions, she says. “They were trying to figure out where is their child eligible and best-served by going to all these different doors, making a lot of phone calls, filling out a lot of very long forms, and then maybe finding out they went to the wrong place all along and they should have been somewhere else.”

Now, families start online with the two-page PDF form – involving a few tick boxes, a quick description of the child’s issues, and inclusion of a diagnosis if there is one. “Then we’re able to look at that referral, determine if it’s quite straightforward and place them on the appropriate wait list, or, if it’s a more complex referral that needs more information about the child and the nuances, we can do an intake interview to find out what their needs are,” says Seymour. If there is no diagnosis yet, a diagnostic assessment may follow.

Previously, too, parents often had to keep track of medical information about their child and take it with them on various visits to service providers. “Now, the information is all in their health records, which are shared electronically across the institution,” says Seymour.

Anne Lukey, an Administrative Assistant who was closely involved with the project, says that since the new system started in November 2018, it has begun opening up the wait lists “because now the child is on the proper wait list for the proper services.” It’s also freeing up clinical resources, because previously professionals such as speech pathologists were often having to work on intake as well. “It’s a huge savings of time for them,” says Lukey.

Morgan says she felt grateful for the opportunity to take part in the consultation process. Since her children had a clear diagnosis, the Down syndrome clinic handled all her referrals, and she wanted to help other families have the same good experience. “I felt my input was valued,” she says. “I think they’ve taken it in a very good direction.”