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The Pediatric Research Work of Dr. Louis Hampers and How It Has Impacted Hospital Policies

Dr. Louis Hampers completed his medical degree in 1992 and has been practicing medicine, primarily focusing on emergency pediatrics, in the years since. Between 1995-1996, Dr. Louis Hampers spent one year working at a mission hospital in Kenya in an effort to gain exposure to a wide variety of specialities. It was during this year-long assignment that Dr. Hampers honed in on his desire to work not just in Pediatrics, but in Emergency Pediatrics. His gentle bedside manner coupled with his ability to make quick decisions under pressure made him the perfect candidate for such a position.

Emergency Pediatrics requires three years of fellowship training in an academic medical center. So upon returning to the United States, Dr. Louis Hampers relocated to Chicago to complete his fellowship at Children’s Memorial Hospital. In Chicago, Dr. Hampers was exposed for the first time to the process of medical research and began to conduct his own. Initially, his primary research focus was on the effect that a language barrier has on medical decision-making.

Medical research suited Dr. Louis Hampers, who thoroughly enjoyed the undertaking of thinking of a research question, designing and implementing a study, analyzing and interpreting the results, and publishing a manuscript. Between 1998 and 2011, he authored and co-authored 34 publications. In addition to his extensive research on language barriers in medicine, Dr. Hampers’ research focuses include variation in physician practice patterns, urgent care and fast-track medicine, febrile seizures, tropical medicine, and substance abuse treatment.

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Dr. Louis Hampers moved on from Chicago to become both the Medical Director of the Emergency Department at the Children’s Hospital of Colorado and the Section Head of the Section of Pediatric Emergency Medicine at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, as well as an Associate Professor. He currently practices Primary Care Pediatrics in Aurora, Colorado. But the impact of his research studies live on, with several studies being cited hundreds of times and deeply influencing hospital policies nationwide.

Language Barriers in Medicine

Perhaps his most cited research, Dr. Louis Hampers was inspired to research the effect of language barriers on medical care after his year in Kenya. After wondering how much his care was compromised by his inability to communicate fully, he designed and implemented a study in a pediatric emergency department (ED) from September 1997 through December 1997.

Patients included in the study ranged from 2 months to 10 years of age, were not chronically ill, and had a presenting temperature ≥38.5 degrees C or complained of vomiting, diarrhea, or decreased oral intake. About 2467 patients participated in the study. A total of 286 families (12%) did not speak English, resulting in a language barrier (LB) for the physician in 209 cases (8.5%). LB patients were much more likely to be Hispanic (88% vs 49%), and less likely to be commercially insured (19% vs 30%). 

In cases in which an LB existed, mean test charges were significantly higher: $145 versus $104, and ED stays were significantly longer: 165 minutes versus 137 minutes. Ultimately, the presence of an LB accounted for a $38 increase in charges for testing and a 20-minute longer ED stay. 

Dr. Louis Hampers went on to perform studies and publish research on the effectiveness of telephonic interpreters, in-person interpreters, and bilingual providers in terms of patient understanding of diagnoses. He also explored the actual usage of available hospital interpreters vs inadequate communication or asking bilingual colleagues for assistance; his research found that despite a perception that they are providing suboptimal communication, nonproficient residents rarely chose to use professional interpreters. Instead, they relied on their own inadequate language skills, imposed on their proficient colleagues, or avoided communication with limited English proficiency families.

It is thanks in part to Dr. Hampers’ contribution that hospitals now provide interpreters and actually improve care in the pediatric ED while also reducing costs.

Febrile Seizures

Febrile seizures are common in children, who are typically brought to the nearest emergency department (ED). Febrile seizures are defined as a convulsion in a child that’s caused by a fever; the fever is usually due to an infection. Febrile seizures occur in young, healthy children who are developing normally and haven’t displayed any neurological symptoms prior to the seizure.

Through his research, Dr. Hampers determined that patients who experience a simple febrile seizure are not at higher risk for serious bacterial illness than clinically similar febrile children who have not experienced a convulsion. Parents should be notified that recurrence is common and that these convulsions are benign with an excellent prognosis. The risk of developing epilepsy after a simple febrile seizure is low, but complex febrile seizures (those lasting more than 15 minutes or isolated symptoms of seizure to one part of the body) carry a significantly higher risk.

Dr. Hampers also found that children with febrile seizures who were brought to a general emergency department (GED) received very different evaluation and management than those brought to an academic pediatric emergency department (PED). Lumbar puncture (LP) was performed more often in the GED group (33% vs 22%); the patients in the GED group were more likely to receive parenteral antibiotics in the ED (56% vs 22%), and to be admitted or transferred (18% vs 4%).

Additional Research

Through other studies, Dr. Hampers has helped to prepare pediatric tertiary care hospitals for disaster situations by determining that large-scale rapid transportation of hospitalized children is possible without adverse outcomes. In order to do so, however, pre-existing agreements with regional pediatric teams are imperative. Hospitals must also apply preplanning, evacuation priorities, recovery analysis, and prevention/mitigation concepts to rapidly and safely transfer pediatric inpatients.

In 1999, Dr. Hampers helped to execute a study that found patients seen at urgent care or “fast track” centers were equally improved within seven days as those seen at emergency departments. Additionally, they had fewer tests ordered and had briefer lengths of stay.

Dr. Louis Hampers has found success in his clinical work, years of teaching, and leadership in administrative roles, but it is his groundbreaking research that will live on for many years and create a legacy for the dedicated physician. Dr. Hampers has earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues due in part to his relentless determination to improve the field of pediatric medicine in any way that he can.

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