Innovative Multidisciplinary Care for Pediatric Orthopedics
Mary Free Bed Rehabilitation Hospital’s Center for Limb Differences (CLD) specializes in helping infants, children and teens with hand, foot and limb differences. The CLD was designed to:
- Support young patients who were born with a limb difference or who underwent an amputation due to a disease or an accident
- Help the child become independent as possible in all areas of development
The CLD was founded by physicians Charles Frantz and George Aiken, world-recognized experts in the field of pediatric limb differences. They pioneered the concept of multidisciplinary treatment, combining orthopedic and prosthetic care and subsequently included therapeutic and psychosocial disciplines. The program permanently changed the perception of children with amputations and the medical treatment they received.
Today, the team is led by pediatric orthopedic surgeons Dr. Michael Forness and Dr. Lisa Maskill, who specialize in these problems. “I consider it an honor to work here,” said Dr. Forness. “We’re addressing all components of the patient – the psychological, social and physical aspects. We’re trying to help them succeed in life. We’re working together with the family – the family is part of the team, as far as I’m concerned – and it’s just a very rewarding experience.”
Role of Virtual Care in Enhancing Patients’ Independence
Patients generally visit the center three to four times a year. Given the risks of infection and transmission of COVID, the CLD uses a virtual care communication platform to engage patients (and their family caregivers) and reinforce therapy protocols during virtual visits. Synzi helps the broader care team virtually “lay hands” on the patient, answer questions, address emerging issues, and readily align on the care plans’ next steps. Multiple participants can be included on a video call such as the Orthopedic Surgeon, a Pediatric Nurse, the Care Manager, a Physical Therapist, an Occupational Therapist, a Certified Prosthetist, a Certified Orthotist and a Registered Dietitian. A pediatrician and psychologist are also included as needed.
Dr. Forness shared the benefits of using Synzi with the center’s patients as they gain or regain independence: “We see our patients as a team. Our goal is to make these children as independent as possible. Normally, we work together in one conference room and see each patient as a team. With COVID, we quickly determined who we can see virtually. We now see patients across our respective screens and we check-in with them, see how their wounds are healing, and watch how they walk. With virtual care, we see our pediatric patients in their home environment. It’s wonderful to see how they’ve adapted in their home. It’s been very positive to see how each patient is doing in their day-to-day environment.”
Role of Virtual Care in Supporting Family Caregivers
Dr. Forness also recognizes the safety and convenience benefits for his patients’ family caregivers: “We see kids from all over the Midwest. Some might be 4 hours away. So, their parents are tickled with the fact that they don’t have to drive 8 hours roundtrip for every visit. Post-pandemic, we’ll continue using virtual care. Not every patient (and their caregiver) needs to drive 4-6 hours roundtrip for the follow-up visit. I don’t want to put them at risk during the drive if I just want to check on their wound or watch them walk.”