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Creating a children's campus

With centralized clinical services, families find convenient care while kids enjoy a comforting environment

With the right care for her juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, 6-year-old Gabby Burington dances competitively like her sisters. (Photo: Jim Bovin)

Gabby Burington performs in jazz and tap dancing competitions, something her mother didn’t imagine possible when Gabby was diagnosed with juvenile rheumatoid arthritis as a toddler. But this 6-year-old doesn’t let her diagnosis slow her down.

Gabby regularly sees University of Minnesota Amplatz Children’s Hospital specialists in rheumatology and ophthalmology, whose services are now centrally located on the University’s Riverside campus. Anchored by the new hospital facility, the growing children’s health campus is changing pediatric care at the University.

Kids like Gabby are won over by the friendly atmosphere, from the colorful décor and giant tropical fish tanks in waiting rooms to the distracting and ever-popular gaming systems on the inpatient floors.

Parents benefit from the added efficiencies and conveniences that come from facilities planned with families in mind and the knowledge that their children receive care at a place that aims to treat the whole child—physically, socially, and mentally.

“By bringing all of our pediatric specialties together in a centralized location, we’re not only creating a single destination for families who have children with multiple or complex health concerns, but we’re also providing a physical space that naturally improves communication among the members of their care teams,” says Joseph P. Neglia, M.D., M.P.H., physician-inchief at Amplatz Children’s Hospital.

One campus, many benefits

No matter which doctors they see, kids and families benefit from centralized pediatric care. Just a few of the projects completed or under way on the Riverside campus include:

• Renovating pediatric behavioral health services—including two secure inpatient units, subacute units, outpatient clinics, secure exercise areas, and a therapeutic pool—funded largely by a gift from Caroline Amplatz, J.D.;

• Consolidating multiple pediatric outpatient specialty clinics formerly located on both sides of the river;

• Renovating dental clinic space that caters to complex cases and provides hospital-based service.

Cindy Burington, Gabby’s mom, says the clinics were always good about working to schedule her daughter’s multiple clinic appointments on the same day. Now the design and close proximity of the clinics complements the coordinated care that has always been a part of pediatric services at the University.

“My daughter likes it because she can look out the window and see the city,” Burington says of the rheumatology clinic, where Gabby sees Richard Vehe, M.D. “It’s more open; it doesn’t feel so enclosed.”

The new home of the Minnesota Lions Children’s Eye Clinic, which Gabby visits because of a higher risk of ocular inflammation due to her arthritis, is located across the street from the hospital and the rheumatology clinic. It features a brightly colored lobby, approachable registration areas, and nearly double the exam space of its former location.

“Just the general feeling in the clinic has changed,” says C. Gail Summers, M.D., head of pediatric ophthalmology at the University. “There’s a positive energy about the place.”

And it seems that more people have taken notice.

“We are seeing more patients in this location. They’ve commented that they get [in and] out quicker,” Summers says. “Adults don’t like to wait … Kids don’t like to wait even more.”

C. Gail Summers, M.D., says the colorful décor of the new Minnesota Lions Children’s Eye Clinic creates a kid-friendly atmosphere for kids like
19-month-old Arielle Zuniga. (Photo: Jim Bovin)

Burington sees how her daughter responds to the positive atmosphere. “She never gets scared with all of the drops they need to put in her eyes. They are calming,” she says of the staff. “They take the extra step to walk her through it and make sure she’s comfortable.”

Each exam room has toys and eye-testing equipment designed for children, such as a double scope that allows both residents and faculty members to view the child’s eyes simultaneously, saving time, not to mention potential stress for the youngest of patients.

This efficient but comforting atmosphere is the goal at the multiple specialty clinics that are moving closer to the Amplatz facility. Some, like ophthalmology, have already made the move to the Riverside campus, while others are still under renovation.

Creating better outcomes together

Of course, the centerpiece of the campus is the Amplatz Children’s Hospital, where everything from the signage to the lighting is designed to be child- and family-friendly.

“Working in this kind of environment allows us to think outside the box because the institution sparks innovation, rewards forward thinking, and is driven by results,” says Daniel Saltzman, M.D., Ph.D., surgeon-in-chief at Amplatz.

Bringing pediatric experts together in one place where ideas grow fosters this innovation. All patients, from children with the rarest to the most routine conditions, benefit from this close community of pediatric experts, he says.

Labor and delivery in The Birthplace, for instance, is now a mere 40 feet from the neonatal intensive care unit at Amplatz. Close connections with maternal-fetal medicine means families going through challenging pregnancies are consulting with perinatologists and pediatric specialists right from the beginning. This reduces stress for the families, Saltzman says, and gives the care team the best chance to come up with solutions.

Says Saltzman: “Here, we have the greatest opportunity to have good outcomes.”

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