In spina bifida (SB), transition of care from the pediatric to adult healthcare settings remains an opportunity for improvement. Transition of care is necessarily multidimensional and focuses on increasing independence, autonomy, and personal responsibility for health-related tasks. While prior research has demonstrated that effective transition can improve health outcomes and quality of life while reducing healthcare utilization, little is known about the most advantageous transition program components/design. The individualized transition plan (ITP) was developed to optimize the readiness of the adolescent with SB for adult healthcare. The ITP is a set of clearly articulated, mutually developed goals that arise from best available data on successful transition and are individualized to meet the individual challenges, needs, and attributes of each patient and family.
Prospectively completed ITPs were retrospectively reviewed from June 2018 to May 2019. Demographic and disease characteristics were collected, and specific goals were reviewed and categorized.
Thirty-two patients with an ITP were included. The cohort was 50% male and had a mean age of 16.4 years. For goal 1 (maximize education), the most common goal was to complete a career interest survey (44%), followed by researching application/admission requirements for programs of interest (25%), shadowing in and/or visiting a workplace (16%), and improving high school performance (16%). For goal 2 (bowel management), most patients (59%) had a working bowel program with few or no bowel accidents. Eight patients (25%) were having more than the desired number of bowel accidents and received formal consultation with a gastroenterologist. Five patients (16%) needed only minor adjustments to their bowel management regimen. Goal 3 (SB program coordinator goal) focused on documenting medical and/or surgical history for the majority of patients (66%). Other goals aimed to increase patient communication in healthcare settings or utilize available community resources.
The authors developed an evidence-based ITP that focuses around 5 goals: maximizing education, bowel continence, and goals set by the SB clinic coordinator, parent/caregiver, and patient. Although developed for the authors’ SB clinic, the ITP concept is applicable to transition of care in any chronic childhood illness.