When Dr. Jennifer Bickel talks about her creative approaches to taking care of headache patients, her humble nature is refreshing, particularly in light of the fact that that what she has built in terms of pediatric headache resources is truly unique and valuable.
Dr. Bickel is a neurologist who specializes in headaches. She noticed gaps in awareness of pediatric headaches, and realized that taking good care of children with headaches goes beyond the clinic. She is generous with her advice, sharing her successes and failures, and often attributing her accomplishments to collaborations and strong networking connections.
Dr. Bickel realized that good headache care for children required her to reach into and connect with 2 places, one being the school and the other being the Internet. She initially did not have a way into the school system to connect with the school nurses, who are ultimately the first health care providers that most children with headaches encounter. But then when Dr. Bickel started talking with the mother of one of her patients, she learned that not only that the patient’s mother was president of the school board, but that she was enthusiastic about connecting Dr. Bickel to legislators -who eventually wrote letters of support to the school board, which convinced the district to adopt new approaches to dealing with headaches during the school day.
And as her outreach in regard to headaches grew, Dr. Bickel was encouraged to apply for a grant designed to improve headache care and awareness. She won the grant and used it to build a website and to create videos geared towards helping pediatric headache patients. Dr. Bickel explains that the name she initially used for the website, pediatricmigraine.com did not show up as a top search result for patients, who are her target audience. As she re-evaluated her audience, she realized that the name of the website was not patient friendly, and sounded more like a website geared for professional education. Changing gears to headachereliefguide.com was a move that she says solved that problem because it was more in line with what patients are looking for.
Dr. Bickel explains that the site was built to be an online destination where people could feel comfortable and could stay engaged. She has built a series of videos, fun quizzes and questionnaires to help young migraine patients prepare for their doctor's visits and assess lifestyle habits that impact headaches- like exercise and proper hydration. She explains that the website was modeled after consumer lifestyle and fashion magazines that people enjoy looking at, so that patients can feel a sense of comfort and even enjoyment as they learn how to optimize life with headaches.
Eventually, Dr. Bickel did end up adding some resources for doctors, and these resources, like the rest of the website, are practical tools, such as patient hand outs and customized school letters.
When it comes to a daunting project like building a patient focused website, Dr. Bickel has been happy to share her advice and tips. She advises doctors who want to start a project to develop a specific area and prepare statistics in advance if seeking funding for the project. And while she didn't search for a grant, but was directed to a grant by others who know about her interests through her networking, she explains that there are many grants out there to support advances in health care and that if you look, you can find them. And of course, her own networking successes happened not through asking for anything, but simply by building strong relationships with people who saw her genuine sincerity about reaching headache patients outside the clinic.
Dr. Jennifer Bickel is a Neurologist and medical director of the headache program at Children's Mercy Hospital and Clinics in Kansas City, MO. Her patient-centered website is headachereliefguide.com
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