For many years, my non-pediatrician physician colleagues have joked about my commitment to differentiating between our chosen specialties, saying – “We’ve got it, children are not just small adults”. Perhaps I have been a tad too forceful in illustrating how pediatrics differs from adult internal medicine throughout my career. But in discussions, I find that the point often needs to be (re)stated.
While it’s true that the overall body systems are the same in both adults and children – the heart is a heart at every age – the common concerns of a pediatrician are different from those of an internist. Pediatricians use variable dosing for medications by weight. We must consider the child’s age when addressing a likely bacterial infection. Factoring in developmental stages, vaccination status, and prenatal exposures are also part the long list of considerations unique to pediatric medicine.
That’s where the medical problem list comes into play. Ideally, a well-organized problem list sorts relevant diagnoses into logical problem categories. These categories, often grouped based on medical specialty, help physicians in all departments to provide the best care possible for their patients.
For pediatrics, that means that the key considerations for treating children are easily accessible to the clinician – allowing them to have this important information top-of-mind during clinic visits and while making care decisions. A problem list with entries located in a logical place, like a diagnosis of cerebral palsy falling under the neurology category, gives pediatricians the information that they would expect and require from a problem list geared to meet their needs.
What’s more, an optimal pediatric problem list can highlight pediatric-specific considerations. As an example, the ability for a problem list to flag markers such as unvaccinated child ensure that pediatric providers don’t waste valuable time and energy searching through the electronic health record (EHR) to find this critical piece of documentation. The result? A well-organized and up-to-date problem list helps pediatricians spend less time hunting for information in the EHR and more brainpower focusing on what counts – clinical care.