Children’s affiliation — and expansion — make a lot of sense

3 suburban facilities will help contain pediatric care costs

IN A recent opinion piece in Commonwealth, Paul Hattis expressed support for the proposed affiliation between Boston Children’s Hospital and Franciscan Children’s.

At a time when behavioral health is in crisis, there is more need than ever for our two hospitals to combine their collective experience and expertise to create a unique system of pediatric behavioral health and rehabilitative care, research, and teaching.

The same piece noted that our proposal to improve access to our care services outside of Boston must also advance the state’s cost containment goals.  Our ambulatory renewal proposal does that and provides much-needed access to pediatric subspecialty care.

Our proposal includes the following:

  • At our Waltham site, we are seeking to renew and improve our current facility and services to include an 18-bed infusion unit, radiology, and a sleep program.
  • At our Weymouth site, we are seeking to move our current physician offices to a new building, in order to better support our existing services, and expand diagnostic, therapeutic, and testing services to include cardiac testing, phlebotomy, radiology, audiology, speech therapy, physical therapy, and occupational therapy.
  • In Needham, we are seeking to build a new, comprehensive ambulatory surgical center that will include surgery, radiology, and pediatric specialty clinical services, including gastroenterology, ophthalmology, otolaryngology, and orthopedic surgery/sports medicine.

We have worked closely with these and other communities to understand the health care needs of their children.  We have received strong support from patient families, as well as community members and organizations during the Department of Public Health public hearing process.

The need for pediatric subspecialty care continues to grow.  Our plans in these communities are part of our ongoing efforts to ensure that patients and families have access to a full range of high quality, integrated pediatric care services in convenient settings — as close to home as possible –and at a lower cost of care.

Our efforts align closely with what the state is seeking to achieve through its cost containment goals: contain costs while improving access and quality.

At Boston Children’s we continue to look to the future by taking the long-term view of promoting the Commonwealth’s cost containment goals.

Improved access to specialized pediatric care, treatment plans that include the whole family, and better and more consistent care of chronic or complex medical conditions are all investments in avoiding or containing total medical expenses for decades to come. By providing timely ambulatory care to pediatric patients with complex medical conditions, we reduce the need for more difficult and expensive downstream care.

We anticipate that improving access to our services in the community — closer to patients and their families — will create savings not only for patients but also for payors.  For example, by shifting certain procedures from our main campus to our lower cost Needham ambulatory surgical center, we expect to generate savings for third-party payors.

Our Needham facility will allow us to move care from a more expensive tertiary and quaternary setting to a more efficient, cost-effective one. Certain services, such as endoscopy — performed in an ambulatory facility rather than a full-service hospital — can be done more efficiently and at a lower cost. Additionally, increased access to pediatric-tailored imaging protocols with the addition of two MRI units in a community facility may reduce the need for repeat imaging.

We view our proposed facilities in Waltham, Weymouth, and Needham as “gateways to access” that will significantly reduce barriers to care — from the time and expense of transportation and parking in Boston, to easier physical access with wider and smoother parking lots and sidewalks, to smaller, less congested, and more easily navigated hospital spaces. These barriers can be more acute in pediatric care settings, where treatment necessarily involves family members as well.

All three locations are near major highways, improving access not only for patients and families in those communities, but also in nearby underserved communities, such as Brockton, Framingham, Quincy ,and Randolph, as well as for patients and families from across the state.

Boston Children’s is firmly committed to helping the Commonwealth achieve its health care goals, including cost containment.  Our proposed facilities in Waltham, Weymouth, and Needham will advance those goals by offering patients and families improved access to high quality, integrated pediatric care services, closer to home and at a lower cost.

Peter Laussen is executive vice president of health affairs for Boston Children’s Hospital; Doug Vanderslice is executive vice president of enterprise services and system chief financial officer at Boston Children’s Hospital.