Beyond the Diagnosis: JaxHATS
As a member of the National Health Corps, I have been serving as a patient navigator at UF Health, Jacksonville Health and Transition Services (JaxHATS). Falling under the umbrella of the Bower Lyman Center for Medically Complex Children, my host site caters to a rather specific patient body. JaxHATS typically serves teens and young adults aged 14-23 who all have chronic medical or developmental problems. The transition to adulthood is a time of change and one that requires preparation. For teens and young adults with disabilities and special health care needs, there are many complex issues that require special attention. Through this time of transition, staying as healthy as possible is paramount, as good health promotes success in the adult roles of employment, lifelong learning, and independent community living. The transition from pediatric care to adult-oriented health care can be especially complicated for people with disabilities and chronic health conditions, and the team at JaxHATS works tirelessly to make this transition as smooth as possible.
My specific role in JaxHATS is assessing patient’s readiness for transition and educating them on what they need to know regarding their own healthcare needs and who we think will be the best fit for them to see as a new provider as well as assist them with things like vocational rehab referrals for employment. Getting the chance to help the patients learn more about their needs as well as grow more independent has been such a rewarding experience so far.
One thing that has stood out to me throughout my time here is the drastic effect that social determinants have on a patient's health. There is only so much that providers and the healthcare team can do for a patient in the office. What happens outside of the office plays a much larger role in the patient’s overall well-being. For example, the team at JaxHATS can diagnose ailments, prescribe medications, and arrange for appointments with specialists, but if the patient does not have the means to pick up the prescriptions or transportation to their appointments, then the efforts put forth by the team were in vain. Another crucial aspect of the JaxHATS team is the wonderful social workers and care coordinators who work diligently to stop socio-economic issues from getting in the way of patients’ medical care. Both parts of JaxHATS are equally important for giving the patient the best medical attention possible.
A large percentage of the patients are on some form of Medicaid, which allows them to receive most visits, treatments, medications, and durable medical equipment for little to nothing out of pocket. Unfortunately, I have learned that healthcare accessibility is so much more than the initial cost. For example, many of our patients are unable to drive themselves, and their guardians are usually working full-time, so that makes getting to appointments on time a huge challenge. Sometimes patients resort to using rideshare apps to get to their appointments which is often a luxury that they cannot afford. Other times, patients or guardians will have to take days off of work without pay to go to their appointments, and the loss of a single day’s pay can be very punishing for them. The team works to ensure that these complications are limited to a minimum, and the patients are always so grateful for their efforts.
JaxHATS does amazing work for a patient population that is otherwise neglected. The members of the JaxHATS staff are truly some of the most selfless and caring individuals and their work and dedication deserve all the praise in the world.