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Connecting with parents on the importance of early childhood health screenings and vaccinations

We know that it can be a challenge for pediatricians to make sure their young patients get all their vaccinations and health screenings. Parents may not understand the importance of tests/screenings, have misunderstandings about vaccination side effects or some may even be reluctant to return to the doctor's office in the wake of the COVID-19 public health emergency.

Guiding patients toward needed care

Communicating with parents about what screenings and vaccinations their children need is key.

Puthenmadam Radhakrishnan, MD, (known as Dr. Rad) says while a few parents may be hesitant to vaccinate their children, his practice is working to ensure that the highest number of children get age-related screenings or services. Dr. Rad and others at Bellevue Pediatrics located in Ewing, NJ are focusing on educating parents and reducing barriers to care. For instance, they offer certain vaccines at clinics within the community.

“We provide vaccines free of charge to over 200 people every year. We have volunteered with our local Board of Education to provide vaccines to schools which includes kids who don't have insurance,” says Dr. Rad. “We're taking away whatever hindrances there are to the access.”

Bellevue Pediatrics has been treating children since 1999, most of whom are on Medicaid plans. The doctors at the practice have long understood the importance of communicating with their patients about the necessary screenings and vaccinations.

The practice's educational efforts also help refute the information parents find on social media or other web sites that might not be from reliable, evidenced-based resources.

“It's much easier for people to spread rumors and misinformation than it is for us to fight against what they might have read. But as long as you're willing to talk, that's the conversation we're willing to have. Our goal is to educate parents,” said Dr. Rad.

When it comes to health screenings, Bellevue Pediatrics makes it as easy as possible for patients to coordinate necessary services such as lab and blood tests. As a community provider, they also have the benefit of connecting with patients on a more personal level.

“Our office manager is an LPN. She's been doing this for 40 years. She lives in the community, so she knows everybody there. It's like a grandma talking to you rather than a provider. There's less judgment, and if there's hesitancy, we're more than willing to say, ‘Okay, we'll talk about this. Come back in a couple of weeks. That's fine. Take your time.' It's more of a position of education and trying to work with parents,” added Dr. Rad.

Connecting with patients to gain understanding

Bellevue Pediatrics, like so many other practices, is committed to better care and improved health outcomes for their patients.

One way they do that is by participating in Horizon NJ Health's Results and Recognition (R&R) Program. The R&R program helps improve clinical outcomes performance on Healthcare Effectiveness Data and Information Set (HEDIS) measures and improve the care our members receive.

And while quality of care often ties into HEDIS scores, Dr. Rad said his practice's dedication to their patients goes beyond simply meeting metrics. They work with Horizon to leverage quality data and reports to identify children who need to get appropriate screenings and services. They even assigned a key person at the practice to monitor these reports and leverage them to coordinate care for children. Horizon's reports help the practice coordinate care and gives them information to ensure our patients are getting the care they need.

“We do anything we can to make sure that we're providing quality care to the kids. We're very in tune to HEDIS scores, but more than that, we reach out to parents and help them understand what it is that we're doing and why we're doing it,” said Dr. Rad.