National experts say some kids are waiting as long as two months to see certain specialty care doctors. In Wilmington, Delaware, the A.I. duPont Hospital for Children has drastically reduced its wait times.
Joanne Kelleher, a medical secretary in the gastroenterology division, answers the phone when parents call looking to book an appointment for their child’s abdominal pain, constipation or other persistent digestive problems. A year ago, parents often had to wait 25 days or more.
“They were very frustrated.” she said. “Back before we had an access pediatrician there could be up to a month wait or past that,” Kelleher said.
“Access physician” — that’s what A.I. duPont calls its new crew of general pediatricians who are “embedded” in specialty departments throughout the hospital.
The access physician is a new option for anxious parents who have worked with their child’s pediatrician but haven’t found a solution. Dr. Matthew DiGuglielmo isn’t a specialist, but he is a step closer to getting some specialty attention and care.
In general, his appointment slots are longer and that gives him more time to ask questions and solve problems, he says.
“I have access to the sub-specialists literally around the corner, or in the clinic, or at the next computer station and sometimes that fertilizes more discussion and allows for faster diagnosis,” DiGuglielmo said.
He often has same-day appointments available, and he always has an opening within five days.
The Children’s Hospital Association surveyed medical centers around the country and found doctor shortages — and long wait times — in several pediatric specialties, including surgery, behavioral health and neurology.