An outsider might assume that New York City youth are universally savvy and self-reliant, capable of finding their way in what is, after all, one of the world’s largest and most diverse cities, a place that is brash, bold, and seemingly bursting with confidence.
But the reality is that youth everywhere face many of the same problems, have many of the same questions, and struggle with many of the same issues. Those issues range from dealing with the physical and emotional changes that come with puberty to questions of identity, self-confidence, and how to navigate the world.
Since 1972, The Door has sought to meet the medical, mental health, social, and career needs of thousands of New York City youth, ages 12 to 24. The Door: A Center of Alternatives, offers them a wide variety of activities and opportunities, from dance, music and art classes to help with immigration issues, homelessness, taking the GED, getting started on a career path, or even something as simple as learning to cook.
At the same time, the organization’s Adolescent Health Center seeks to give underserved city youth a wide range of services, including primary care, dental services, optometry, dermatology, reproductive healthcare, and counseling.
Planning for healow PRM Services
Since 2013, The Door has relied upon eClinicalWorks to meet their healthcare IT needs, but staff recognized that having the right tools wasn’t quite enough. To be as effective as possible, they needed to know how to put those tools to best use. So, they called upon the healow Patient Relationship Management (PRM) Services team.
Bringing in experts to train your staff and set up additional tools to empower your patients makes a great deal of sense, but before taking such a step, it’s important to define what your goals are.
For Renee McConey, director of health services at The Door, the goal was clear — improve access to the broad range of services her organization offers so as to give young people access to whatever they need to reach their full potential.
Achieving that goal isn’t done all at once. Nor is there a magic formula or shortcut. Although some youth may respond to one particular class or healthcare provider and find their lives transformed, most will engage with The Door over the course of a year or more, and slowly discover the services and opportunities that hold the most value for them.
Meeting youth where they are
Before any training took place, leaders and staff at The Door met weekly to discuss what they wanted to achieve and how they might go about it. Priorities included improving awareness of and access to the services they offer. They addressed that by putting up fliers and posters and wearing buttons.
In order to better serve their many Hispanic patients, The Door ordered marketing materials in both Spanish and English.
“PRM Services just really called and resonated to us, because of our patient demographic. We primarily deal with adolescents and they have their cellphone glued to their hands. You know they find that digital access fascinating, whether it’s making an appointment online with the healow app, or getting access to their records from their phone.”
Irene Rodriguez – Manager of Health Center Operations
And staff universally recognized the value of emphasizing the ease of using smartphone apps for patients to access their health records, since today’s youth — whatever their age, background, or personal circumstances — are almost universally attached to their phones much of the time.
Patient Engagement and beyond
Once the healow PRM Services team arrived, they met with patients and staff and trained them in the use of Kiosk for check-in, and how to use Patient Portal to check their records, request appointments, and get reminders.
The technology has made a welcome difference at The Door. And since the young people who use The Door’s many services are already very comfortable with technology, they have adopted the new tools available to them easily.
But beneath all those clicks and swipes lies a more serious purpose.
“We’re really also trying to help them learn this is how it works when you come to a healthcare provider. That’s why we wanted to do PRM Services — to educate our young patients, and really to build relationships with them even more than we are now.”
Ayisha Owens – Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Manager at The Door
Those relationships, Owens and others believe, will build strong, lifelong habits in youth, encouraging them to value health, education, dialogue, and engagement long after they have left The Door for the next stage of their lives.