City Business Guest Perspective: Increased access for family-centered care


by Dr. Elizabeth Wisner: RMHC-SLA board member and physician at Children’s Hospital New Orleans.


Ronald McDonald House Charities (RMHC) is a familiar organization to many, best known for providing a home away from home for families whose children are receiving extended medical care. Since 1983, Ronald McDonald House Charities of South Louisiana (RMHC-SLA) has served more than 20,000 families from Greater New Orleans and across the country. Among the many services it provides, what do our families find most unique and beneficial? RMHC’s role in supporting and facilitating family-centered care.

Family-centered care is a collaborative approach which incorporates patients, caregivers and medical professionals with a goal of improving the quality of health care, psychological wellbeing, clinical outcomes and the overall patient and family experience. As the name would imply, this approach emphasizes the importance of the patient and family as integral members of the health care team.
Research has shown that family-centered care improves communication, allows for more efficient use of health care resources and improves clinical decision-making.

The first of its kind, one study specifically surveyed 530 hospital administrators with Ronald McDonald House (RMH) program affiliations. This international survey found that over 95% of hospital leaders believed that their partnership with a RMH program enhanced family-centered care. Over 90% of respondents also agreed that outcomes such as parental stress, financial strains on families and sleep quality/quantity for parents improved. Administrators also reported that the hospital staff and economic burden associated with assisting families with lodging was also reduced. Together, these findings provide evidence for the positive impact that RMH programs are designed to provide.

Many patients with complex medical conditions and injuries require multiple appointments and hospitalizations. Access to services can also be difficult, as specialized care is often regionalized necessitating travel for many families. Aside from the emotional toll having a sick or injured child, such hospitalizations may result in parental employment challenges as well as significant travel and lodging expenses. Many families may feel the need to choose between being physically present with their hospitalized child versus maintaining a job.

RMHC-SLA makes it possible for families to stay in close proximity to their hospitalized children without the stress of additional costs. Since 2017, RMHC- SLA has saved families more than $7.5 million. They have also provided over 4,932 homemade meals to families. In addition to providing housing and easing the financial burden, RMHC-SLA also provides physical and emotional support for families. Activities, shared meals and community living spaces throughout the home allow for families to build a sense of community, strength and support.

As a RMHC-SLA board member and physician in Louisiana, I have witnessed RMHC-SLA’s work firsthand. The level of support this nonprofit provides to families is unparalleled. The recent opening of the new Ronald McDonald House on the campus of Children’s Hospital New Orleans has allowed the organization to increase available accommodations for families by 47%, bringing the total number of family guest rooms to 22.

With its many helping hands, this organization directly enables family-centered care in our area by decreasing extraneous stressors while improving proximity to our local hospitals. The hard work and collaborative efforts that RMHC-SLA provides allows the focus to stay where it should be: directly on providing high-quality health care for children in our region.