What UT Health Austin is doing for cancer, gynecological disorders, multiple sclerosis, arm and leg pain and work-related illnesses at its clinics at the University of Texas, Dell Children's Medical Center of Central Texas is now doing for hearing loss: bringing all of the patients' resources under one roof.
This summer it began seeing patients at the Hearing Center, which is located in the Strictly Pediatrics building near the hospital.
"We're giving people access to sound in such a sound-filled city," says Dr. Corrie Roehm, director of the Hearing Center at Dell Children’s.
One of the big goals is to have an integrated system for a family facing a new diagnosis. "Our goal is to get them seen by us as quickly as possible and get a real diagnosis."
From that diagnosis, the center is able to treat people with anything from medical interventions to therapies. Currently, it has a surgeon as well as implant audiologists, auditory-verbal therapists, speech therapists and a team coordinator. More staff will be added as the center grows.
"We focus on what the family's needs are," Roehm says. For some families, that means a goal of verbal communication, for some it's using sign language, and for others it's a combination.
The big goal is to help families find a connection to the people around them, Roehm says. "The care coordinator role at the center allows us to meet with families, and set goals for communication interventions they are wanting to pursue, and understand their story," she says. "It's not a cookie-cutter concept."
Of the about 250 reasons why someone could have hearing loss, about two-thirds are genetic, she says. Some have really clear reasons, and others don't. Because of the genetic role, some families might have multiple siblings as well as parents with hearing loss. The center will treat both children and adults to make care easier for the families.
The center came out of a monthly cochlear implant team meeting that started about four years ago. That team connected local pediatric hearing and speech specialists to audiology staff members at the school district.
The idea is that the care is coordinated, with all providers in one place and talking to one another. Roehm says that about 30 percent to 45 percent of her patients have other medical issues that make care more complex. Being part of the Ascension network makes care coordination much simpler, she says, when discussing a case with a doctor in network versus out of network because of shared medical records.
The center opened with the capacity to treat about 24 children a year, but it has already surpassed that and expects to see double those numbers this year. Roehm says the vision is to expand to North Austin and Cedar Park within six months to 12 months "because our numbers have escalated so quickly."
RELATED: Heading to ACL Fest, F1 this month? Protect yourself from hearing loss