No matter their age or the severity of their condition, all patients with epilepsy have one thing in common — they want their seizures to stop.
Many will succeed by taking medication and having regular checkups. Others need more advanced treatments that their local neurologist may not offer. Keck Medicine of USC is making this problem a thing of the past by reaching out to community hospitals and doctors across Southern and Central California to establish care partnerships. The goal: Giving as many patients as possible access to the expertise and resources of the USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center, while also maintaining the important relationships with their home team.
The USC Comprehensive Epilepsy Center is accredited as a Level 4 specialty center by the National Association of Epilepsy Centers. The center employs a multidisciplinary medical team with the full complement of subspecialties. This allows the center to provide the most advanced care available for patients that experience uncontrolled seizures, suffer severe side effects from medication, want to get pregnant or have other related complex issues.
“Patients come to us because they need a higher level of care, but then they keep coming to us for their regular check-ups when they should be seeing their doctor in the community who referred them,” explains Christi Heck, MD, professor of clinical neurology at the Keck School of Medicine of USC, and medical director of the center.
With care partnerships, the patient’s local neurologist again becomes the main point of contact. These physicians perform routine checkups, but also have the advantage of complete access to the world-class medical and surgical facilities of Keck Medical Center of USC when a patient’s treatment requires resources that aren’t available at a community hospital.
To help facilitate this collaboration between Keck Medicine and community health care providers, the USC Epilepsy Care Consortium has been established. The consortium holds weekly joint surgical conferences and allows for a more flexible system where patients can move easily from one facility to another as diagnostic and treatment needs dictate. Nearly a third of California’s certified epilepsy centers are now members of the consortium, maximizing patient access to the resources of an academic medical center, while minimizing unnecessary travel.
“The consortium has created a team of doctors who are doing everything they can for each patient,” says Charles Liu, MD, professor of clinical neurological surgery at the Keck School and surgical director of the epilepsy center. “When a community doctor has access to the resources of Keck Medicine, they know that when their patient needs advanced care, they will get it. We believe that this is the only way the true public health needs of epilepsy can be addressed. Our goal is to make it so as many people as possible can benefit.”
These benefits include access to the latest technological advancements, including imaging studies and procedures that accurately pinpoint the source of the seizures. Advanced research protocols and clinical trials are easily accessible when necessary, as well as nutritionists, psychologists and other specialists that may not be available closer to home.
“This approach is a bit unique,” says Heck about the consortium and the network that has developed from these efforts. “I think it is a model of how centers of excellence, not only in neurology, might better serve patients.”
For more information or to refer a patient, call (323) 442-5710.