A Newborn Baby’s Experience Tells The Story: Health Care Policy Effects All of Us

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Anyone who has needed to use their health care policy to remain healthy, get care for a health condition, or plan to use their health insurance is faced with a challenge. Most of Americans agree that health care is a right, not a privilege and we all want access to it. We believe most agree that we don’t want to go back to the terrible place where people are denied health insurance because they have a pre-existing condition.

However, we still have a lot of work to do, because small businesses in America are being penalized with ever increasing insurance rates because something unplanned or catastrophic fell on one or more of the business’s employees and insurance rates are increasing in an exponential manner for these families who subscribe to the business’s plan.

Jimmy Kimmel highlighted some of these issues last night in his monologue as he told the tale of his son’s birth last week with a congenital heart defect. He decried the idea that anyone should be denied access to health insurance and to coverage for pre-existing medical conditions, about which President Trump has been unclear. Many people are concerned about the loss of such coverage, and Mr. Kimmel captured their fears:

We were brought up to believe that we live in the greatest country in the world, but until a few years ago, millions and millions of us had no access to health insurance at all. Before 2014, if you were born with congenital heart disease like my son was, there was a good chance you’d never be able to get health insurance because you had a pre-existing condition. You were born with a pre-existing condition. And if your parents didn’t have medical insurance, you might not live long enough to even get denied because of a pre-existing condition.

If your baby is going to die, and it doesn’t have to, it shouldn’t matter how much money you make. I think that’s something that, whether you’re a Republican or a Democrat or something else, we all agree on that, right?”
“This isn’t football,” Mr. Kimmel added. “There are no teams. We are the team, it’s the United States. Don’t let their partisan squabbles divide us on something every decent person wants.”

Kimmel began his monologue describing how incredibly, his baby boy was identified by a nurse to have a life-jeapordizing heart murmur during her routine assessment a few hours after his birth.

An example of excellence that those of us working in health care are trained to provide. This is set in motion daily in countless ways and in countless places. Without funding for education, opportunity for astute assessment and quick action diminish exponentially. We need to support continued funding to assure training so that all health care professionals function with full competency and capacity.

Kimmel also congratulated Congress on doing the right thing in not decreasing, but increasing funding for medical research for the National Institute of Health, rather than decreasing the funding by billions as President Trump proposed.

All is not fixed. There is much work to do. Cost of health care continues to increase, especially for those who have needed to use the benefits. Share your story. Contact your legislator. Keep the conversation going.

Cherished

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While Health Calls doesn’t have Administrative Assistants in the pure sense of the word, we have an awesome support team who register our patients, schedule visits, bill for our services, obtain insurance authorization for visits, provide payroll and human resource support to our staff and medical records management.

Danielle Yoder provides telecommunications and referral support part time. She is a full time Occupational Therapy student at Alvernia University. Ali Radwanski has worked at Health Calls since high school and is now Health Calls Human Resource Generalist and assures staff benefits and payroll operate smoothly along with referral management support. Donna Noray is one of Health Calls longest employed staff, working for Health Calls for over 10 years. Starting as a field employee, Donna now provides referral and admission support in addition to therapy scheduling. Michelle Sedlack also started in the field as a Certified Nurse Assistant and today coordinates the skilled nursing visit schedules. Diana Perkins has also worked for Health Calls since high school in a variety of capacities and today manages the insurance authorization process for the agency caseload. Kris Seabron provides medical record management and assures that we have the necessary documentation and current signed physician orders for patients we treat.

We count on our Administrative Support Team everyday and we are so fortunate to have them. They are key to smooth, efficient operations. Without them, we would be reduced to chaos.

“No one is more cherished in this world than someone who lightens the burden of another. Thank you.” — Joseph Addison

Thank you for all that you do everyday!

Advocating for family care: Speak up, prevent infections


It’s amazing, but hand washing of your loved ones hands is not top of mind when in the hospital! I saw this first hand during a recent 11 day hospital stay with a family member. Staff are very good at this point of consistently washing their own hands but forget about the patient. 

You have a right as a family advocate to speak up for best care. Prevent infections. Ask healthcare providers to clean their hands AND be sure your loved ones hands are clean too! 

This infographic from the Center for Disease Control offers great advice. #cleanhandscount

Depression: let’s talk.

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Depression affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries. It causes mental anguish and impacts on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends and the ability to earn a living. At worst, depression can lead to suicide, now the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year olds.

Each year, the World Health Organization (WHO) focuses on a universal health issue on World Health Day, which is observed around the world today. This year, WHO has chosen to focus on depression for World Health Day.

WHO reports that the cost of lost productivity in the workplace due to depression and anxiety is very high. For the United States, it is an estimated $1 trillion each year. WHO also estimates that $1 invested in treatment for depression and anxiety leads to a return of $4 in better health and ability to work, be productive, and lead better quality life.

Most people with depression and anxiety don’t seek treatment. Yet, depression can be prevented and treated. A better understanding of what depression is, and how it can be prevented and treated, will help reduce the stigma associated with the condition, and lead to more people seeking help.

Depression is an illness characterized by persistent sadness and a loss of interest in activities that you normally enjoy, accompanied by an inability to carry out daily activities, for at least two weeks. In addition, people with depression normally have several of the following symptoms: a loss of energy; a change in appetite; sleeping more or less; anxiety; reduced concentration; indecisiveness; restlessness; feelings of worthlessness, guilt, or hopelessness; and thoughts of self-harm or suicide.

IMPORTANT THINGS TO KNOW:

  • Depression can affect anyone, at any age, sex, or social status. Three groups of people are disproportionally affected: adolescents and young adults, women of childbearing age (particularly following childbirth), and older adults (over 60 years of age).
  • Depression is a common mental disorder that affects people of all ages, from all walks of life, in all countries.
  • The risk of becoming depressed is increased by poverty, unemployment, life events such as the death of a loved one or a relationship break-up, physical illness and problems caused by alcohol and drug use.
  • Depression causes mental anguish and can impact on people’s ability to carry out even the simplest everyday tasks, with sometimes devastating consequences for relationships with family and friends.
  • Untreated depression can prevent people from working and participating in family and community life. At worst, depression can lead to suicide.
  • Depression can be effectively prevented and treated. Treatment usually involves either a talking therapy or antidepressant medication or a combination of these.
  • Overcoming the stigma often associated with depression will lead to more people getting help.
  • Talking with people you trust can be a first step towards recovery from depression.

RESOURCES:

World Health Organization http://www.who.int/en/

Suicide Prevention http://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ 1-800-273-8255

World Health Day WHO  http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2017/world-health-day/en/

Depression and Mental Health Screening Tools http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/mental-health-screening-tools

Anxiety and Depression Association of America Screening tool https://www.adaa.org/iving-with-anxiety/ask-and-learn/screenings/screening-depression

WebMD Depression http://www.webmd.com/depression/news/20170331/depression-who

VOA News http://www.voanews.com/a/who-depression-statistics/3737024.html

What Matters To You?

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Ninety-eight year old Millie lives with her daughter and family in a suburban neighborhood. Millie has been in the hospital 6 times this past year for problems related to heart failure. She has been back home for the past week. Millie doesn’t have much of an appetite and so when she says she would like an old-fashioned deli pickle with her lunch, her son-in-law doesn’t question her.

If Millie wants to stay home (she says that’s her goal) there are some dietary guidelines that she needs to follow. The salt in one pickle is more than half Millie’s daily allotment. Millie’s heart failure requires a balancing act. The amount of salt she takes in with her food affects that careful balance.

We have entered a new age of health care. Regardless of politics, healthcare reform is needed and necessary. Anybody who has been on either side of a patient bed (clinician, patient and family) all know the many reasons why.

We haven’t seen all the necessary changes to reform. Change requires many shifts of mindset and how health care is delivered. Health care reform will continue to challenge each of us to change how we think. The patient plays the central role in managing their conditions and the entire health care team is there to help improve health. For many patients, a breath of fresh air occurs when they are asked “what are YOUR goals?”, which has been a focus of clinical training but has finally become an official Medicare regulation.

Flipping Healthcare

Healthcare should be flipped, or rather delivered in a way that’s convenient for patients, not their providers, says Institute for Healthcare Improvement president and CEO Maureen Bisognano, who used the phrase in a National Forum keynote address in 2014.

The idea, borrowed from education ( “flipping the classroom,”) is that healthcare should be provided in a way that meets what the patient wants, and providers should be allowed to teach caregivers what they need and that caregivers willingly listen because it is information they want and need.

“We need to flip from focusing on the medical condition to focusing on the patient,” Bisognano says. In this framework, the balance of care is “flipped” from the hospital to the community.

In many respects, the healthcare community has been health professional-centered. If a person is not feeling well, a call is made for an appointment and the patient goes to the doctor’s office or hospital. People are asked “what’s the matter, what’s wrong?” as opposed to “what matters to you?”

In the “flipped” care philosophy, the focus also moves away from health care to health.

Home health care providers are at an advantage with this focus. As invited guests we negotiate the focus of the care being delivered. Home health care professionals are focused on care delivery as a care team at work with other community professionals to treat patient where they live. The balance of power shifts away from the healthcare team to the individual and their family in a health partnership to support the patient and family while they build skills and confidence needed to lead active and fulfilling lives.

What are the risks to the person’s safety in their home?
What are the risks to the person’s health in how they live?
What matters to the person?
What are the person’s goals?
What does he hope to gain from our visits?

Visits to a person’s home provides clues to what is important, what may affect her health, what lifestyle choices may need to be negotiated for change for a higher degree of health to be realized.

Flipping care requires active listening to the patient: finding out what is important, what can be negotiated, and then aid and inspire patients to become informed about their conditions and take an active role in their treatment.

For Millie, flipping healthcare could mean understanding that the deli pickle is not a point of negotiation. She may decide that she is not willing to stop eating the pickle. Flipping care means that the home care team gives her the knowledge to make the decision to eat the whole deli pickle, and budget the balance of her daily salt allowed by understanding food labels and using a food chart to find the salt values in foods without labels.

Knowledge is power. This power, coupled with understanding the early signs and symptoms of heart failure trouble, will give her a plan with actions steps to communicate with her doctor on the telephone. Together they make medication adjustments. This power is much more preferable than treating the consequences of poor health management with another hospital stay.

Flipping healthcare matters to Millie.

Stand Up For Social Work

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Recently I had the experience of attending a specialty medical clinic with a family member and we were told one of the people we would be meeting with would be a social worker. An uncomfortable concern entered into mind. Why do we need a social worker? The need for a social worker’s help usually comes during difficulty or perhaps even an unpleasant encounter that will result in a life-changing event. In our situation, the purpose of a social worker was to introduce us to a world of information and support. With this information, we would never feel that we were alone with the new diagnosis. Social workers are champions.

The nation’s 650,000 social workers are champions for some of the most vulnerable people in our society. They stand up by comforting people who are experiencing devastating illnesses and mental health crises, ensuring they get best possible care while on the road to recovery. They stand up and support military personnel, veterans and their families, immigrants, people living with disabilities and people who are LGBTQ.

Child, family and school social workers stand up by protecting children who have been abused and neglected, helping children find new families through adoption, and ensuring young people reach their full academic and personal potential. And social workers work in communities and with national, state and local government to provide services and pass legislation to stand with and help people with the most needs.

Health Calls is fortunate to have three social workers on our team and while each of their roles are different, they are champions in helping our patients and families.

Sue Davidson,B.S. has medical social work experience and uses her skills as Health Calls referral liaison, making visits to patients at the bedside while in the hospital or rehab. She provides a bridge of knowledge and information for patients and families prior to the move back home. She educates the family about our services and educates them as well as making sure that the agency has as much information as possible to ease patients into a safe transition to home.

Aaron Rimby, B.S.W. also has medical social work experience and uses his skills to provide patients and families important information about their insurance benefit and any responsibilities that they might have for home health services. Since some Medicare Advantage and commercial insurance plans have co-pays, and patients may still have a financial deductible that needs to be met, hearing from Aaron prior to the first home health visit lessens anxieties ahead of the visit. Families are better prepared for the home health team’s first visit knowing and accepting any financial responsibility with Aaron’s communications. Aaron is frequently a communications bridge to the team. Aaron is a champion as he provides additional reinforcement to the information that Sue or another referral liaison may have already covered. Families are frequently in crisis mode and overwhelmed as they transition to home and Aaron adds a level of comfort along the path home.

Lillian Chinicci, M.S.W., L.S.W. is the agency’s medical social worker. Lillian provides home health visits to patients and families to support and advise, provides referral to community services and make recommendations to families about additional supports available. Lillian is a champion in her insight, knowledge of resources and her ability to facilitate communication between family members and to find common ground for stressed families in need of referrals to community services to help them.

 


Individually they stand up with their skill and expertise, making a positive impact for each individual family they encounter. Collectively, they stand up to strengthen the agency’s ability to meet the needs of all families Health Calls provides services to. Champions!

Happy Social Work Month! #SWMonth #SWStandUp http://www.socialworkmonth.org

Protect Your Family Against Accidental Poisoning or Unsafe Use of Opiod and Other Prescription Medicines


Protect your family. Keep medications safely locked up and away.

The Washington Post reported this week that Poison Control Centers receive 32 calls a day about children exposed to opiates. While the number of exposures has decreased in the past 6 years, there is still need to protect unaware families of the possible risk to children and family members taking prescription pain medications and other drugs inappropriately, leading to poisoning and possible death.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends storing and locking medications up and away, out of the reach of children.

Important safety tips include:

1. Never leave medicines or vitamins out on a kitchen counter or at a sick child’s bedside, even if you have to give the medicine again in a few hours.

2. Always relock the safety cap on a medicine bottle. If it has a locking cap that turns, twist it until you hear the “click” or until you can’t twist anymore.

3. Tell children what medicine is and why you must be the one to give it to them. Never tell children medicine is candy so they’ll take it, even if your child doesn’t like to take his or her medicine.

4. Remind babysitters, houseguests, and visitors to keep purses, bags, or coats that have medicines in them up and away and out of sight when they’re in your home.

5. Get rid of expired or unused medications using recommended methods as outlined by Consumer Reports:

  • Return unused medications to your pharmacy. Many pharmacies have take-back programs or drop off bins for safe disposal.
  • Drop off unused meds during National Prescription Drug Take Back Day  on Saturday, April 29.
  • Mail medication to a collection site.
  • Use a self-service disposal kiosk at Walgreens and other participating sites.