Idaho’s first pediatric clinic to provide in-home and hospice care has opened, expanding end-of-life and serious illness care to a wider and younger breadth of patient populations and their families in the “gem state.”
Though seniors receive most of the hospice care in the United States, a rising tide of hospice providers are focusing on younger populations with serious or terminal illness. Youth-specific hospice patients are among the most underserved in the nation and face a variety of end-of-life care needs that are unique from those of adults.
Just 4 Kids Home Health & Hospice in Idaho Falls is among the pediatric hospice programs launching across the country. According to Aaron Gardner, M.D., co-founder, CEO and chief medical officer, the program is the first in-home pediatric hospice clinic in the state. Just 4 Kids Home Health & Hospice is the company’s second expansion project.
The first project occurred in 2019 when the company’s Just 4 Kids Urgent Care expanded after opening in the spring of 2018, adding an extra 1,700-square-feet of space to provide specialized pediatric care through Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital.
The concept and planning process of Just 4 Kids Home Health & Hospice clinic has been ongoing since early 2020, according to the pediatric clinic’s hospice administrator Viki Bailey. Idaho is not a certificate of need state.
“The goal was to bridge the gap between the pediatrician’s offices and the [emergency room (ER)],” said Bailey. “The response was phenomenal, and many families shared their love of the urgent care by word of mouth. The area is experiencing rapid population growth, and consequently, a boom in pediatric patients. Over the last year, the need for more personalized, in-home medical care for the families of children with medical complexities became apparent.”
The need and use for children’s home health and hospice services has “skyrocketed,” according to Gardner, who told a local Idaho news outlet that the pediatric clinic’s services will fill a pressing need for urgent care in the area and that building up the hospice side of business will be the organization’s focus during the next several months.
Children with serious illness make up less than 10% of the U.S. population but account for at least 50% of hospital resources for youth patients, according to a 2019 report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). The report indicated that childhood disease trajectories are often less predictable than those of adults, challenging the ability of physicians to predict the six-month prognosis typically involved in hospice care. This can lead to families choosing expensive intensive medical interventions and emergency care, though children are able to receive curative treatments concurrent with hospice services.
While many of these children and their families prefer care in the home, they can also struggle to find support for their emotional, practical and medical needs. Only a fraction receive community-based pediatric hospice or palliative care. The majority of children with serious illness are cared for “exclusively by primary care or subspecialty clinicians,” according to the AAP study authors.
This represents an untapped patient population for hospice providers to spread their reach further into the communities they serve and improve access among youth-specific patients and their families.
“The best part about providing in-home nursing care (and eventually hospice) is simply that the child gets to remain in their home, with their family,” Bailey told Hospice News. “Just 4 Kids hopes to serve the patient and the family as a unit. Our goal is to do everything within our power to not only provide the best physical care, but to also improve their lives and bring them peace of mind as they bravely face the challenges presented to them.”
Just 4 Kids Home Health & Hospice is providing skilled nursing services to a limited number of patients while in the process of accreditation through the Community Health Accreditation Program (CHAP). Current services include skilled nursing visits and occupational, physical and speech therapies.
Bailey told Hospice News that the pediatric clinic hopes to be fully operational within the next six to eight weeks and begin providing children and their families in the community with private duty nursing and hospice, respite and palliative care in the “near future.”