beautiful story about a month ago. Cristin is the mother of Gabe, a 10-year-old boy with special needs. Cristin was asked to speak to a group of physicians at Harvard Medical School about the experience of raising a child with such complex medical and educational needs. As she struggled to figure out how to explain her life, she started drawing a map of the complex machine that is Gabe's care. With the letter "G" - for Gabe - at the center, she drew a web of colorful ovals representing the multitude of services, support structures, providers, consultants and others who touch Gabe's life on a regular basis. The map illustrates better than words ever could the experience of being Gabe's mom. And being Gabe too. It's exhausting to look at.
Cristin is now working with Richard Antonelli, MD, at Children's Hospital Boston on evolving her care map into a technique to actively engage families in care coordination with providers. Here's what she says: "Care mapping provides a comprehensive snapshot of a family’s holistic needs, and enables the entire care team supporting them to appreciate how each of these aspects relate to each other."
I think the care map has many applications for healthcare. For example, we all want to be "known" to our caregivers, but with the time pressures of today's healthcare system, we seldom feel we are. What if each of us brought in a version of a care map to our providers - a graphic representation of the complexity of our lives. Perhaps there would be an oval for the elderly parents we are caring for; another for the psychologist we're seeing for our depression and still another for the struggles we have keeping our weight down and controlling our diabetes. Maybe there would be multiple, overlapping ovals for the values we want to inform our care if ever we're unable to speak for ourselves.
In the new world of patient-centered medical homes, practices are going to have to start getting to know their patients a lot better. Is it unrealistic to think that a clinician would have time to navigate through my entire unwieldy diagram? Maybe, but it would at least get a conversation started. And that's half the battle.