Advancing care in child and adolescent mental health

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“How do we know sooner when things aren’t working?” That question drives the research approach of Dr. Leslie Anne Campbell. Campbell was named the Sobey Family Chair in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes at the IWK Heath Centre in December of 2015.

What makes the work unique is the highly collaborative approach with children and youth, families and care providers to transform mental illness treatment at the IWK. “I’m interested in the whole person,” says Campbell who believes that in order to really make a difference you have to work collaboratively.

Using an electronic survey, developed through collaboration with patients, families and care providers, it is possible to capture health information, and chart, in real-time, how children and youth are functioning. The survey will be filled out as soon as they arrive for their appointment, and the data will be collected and graphed in a meaningful way so that the doctor can interpret the results within the same visit. “What we learn through this approach can actually change the course of treatment, profoundly impacting people’s care,” says Campbell. “It’s enormously rewarding.”

The answers to the questions are reviewed comparatively with previous answers by the patient and against the population to get a snapshot of how that person is doing. In addition to quality and performance outcomes that the IWK tracks; number of visits, wait times and number of patients seen, Campbell points out children and youth have their own important milestones and outcomes that they are trying to achieve and have an important place in the information gathered to guide their care.

Answers like, “I’m able to go to school and not feel anxious,” or “I was able to go to the school dance,” are tracked and used to inform the care approach.

The systematic ability to gather and use this information as part of the bigger picture to guide treatment, program planning and resource allocation is remarkable. Dr. Debbie Emberly, IWK clinical psychologist, agrees that while patient perspectives have always been fundamental, the way the data can be captured and charted instantly, could revolutionize care. “It’s amazing to finally know if the services we offer are actually helping our patients get back to living. This patient level data helps make our system better,” says Emberly.

Campbell’s work as the Sobey Family Chair in Child and Adolescent Mental Health Outcomes brings a focused lens on how to best use technology and collaboration to guide treatment and as Emberly points out “We’re leaders in making that change.

*This article was submitted by The IWK Health Centre.