Reviewed by: Karen Skjei, MD
Written by: Lauryn Feil
UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center are excited to announce the opening of the new Clínica Hispana de Epilepsia Pediátrica (Hispanic Clinic for Pediatric Epilepsy), part of the Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Center within UT Health Austin Pediatric Neurosciences at Dell Children’s, a clinical partnership between UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center. This new clinic provides personalized epilepsy care for Spanish-speaking patients and their families with limited English proficiency. All appointment coordination, care delivery, and interactions with patients and their families will be conducted by fluent Spanish-speaking staff and care providers without the need for interpreters, creating a unique clinical offering in Central Texas.
Throughout the state of Texas, nearly 50,000 children have active epilepsy, more than any other state in the U.S. after California. According to census data, one-third of those children are of Hispanic ethnicity. Studies show that the language barrier between patients and providers, even when interpreter services are provided, has contributed to poorer epilepsy and psychosocial outcomes among Hispanic patients with epilepsy as opposed to non-Hispanic white patients with epilepsy.
Karen Skjei, MD, UT Health Austin pediatric epileptologist, Director of Neurophysiology at the Dell Children’s Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program and founder of the Clínica Hispana de Epilepsia Pediátrica, says, “Hispanic patients with epilepsy are more likely to be treated in the emergency department with seizures, less likely to receive antiepileptic drugs, less likely to receive specialized epilepsy care, and less likely to undergo surgical treatment, the only curative treatment for epilepsy. As a result, epilepsy outcomes are worse in Hispanic patients and those with limited English proficiency.”
The Dell Children’s Comprehensive Pediatric Epilepsy Program has always placed an emphasis on expanding high-quality care to populations who are most in need, some of these efforts being extended to and reaching patients around the world. The Clínica Hispana de Epilepsia Pediátrica adheres to that mission with the overarching goal of providing excellence in pediatric epilepsy care to the large, underserved Spanish-speaking population with limited English proficiency here in Central Texas (and beyond) to address some of the obvious health disparities in epilepsy care.
In addition, Dr. Skjei plans to collect data regarding the effects of language-concordant care on access to and utilization of epilepsy care services, treatment plan adherence by patients and families, and epilepsy and quality of life outcomes. With this information, she hopes to gain a better understanding of the underlying cause of certain health disparities and to provide evidence that supports the efficacy of the new clinic in making an impact toward closing the gaps.
“If we can show that language-concordant care can improve epilepsy outcomes in the Spanish-speaking population with limited English proficiency here in Central Texas, then this model could be expanded to other disciplines in the field of neurology as well as other medical specialties and centers,” says Dr. Skjei, “The goal is to make an impact that reaches beyond Central Texas.”
The Spanish-language pediatric epilepsy care team consists of a variety of epilepsy experts, including epileptologists, neurosurgeons, nurse practitioners, EEG technicians, neuropsychologists, social workers, and more. In addition to being fluent Spanish speakers, each member of the care team brings with them their own perspective and specialized set of skills to ensure children receive holistic care that treats every aspect of their condition while focusing on improving their quality of life.
“Health disparities have a significant negative impact on the lives of so many adults and children here in America. It’s heart-breaking. I believe this clinic and its research will help move Central Texas one step closer to health equity for all,” says Dr. Skjei.