Fulfilling Health Calls Mission One Relationship At A Time


Health Calls received an unsolicited testimonial from a family this past week. It makes us so proud and speaks to Health Calls Mission.

‘Health Calls is a wonderful service! All of the nurses are of the highest quality and you really establish a relationship with them.


Health Calls is always available and ready to help no matter the time! I’d never use another agency with my mom’s care!


Congrats (to) everyone… associated with this fine organization!’

As invited guests in people’s homes, we must negotiate care. We cannot simply “do”. This is a shift in the perspective  that often accompanies health care provided in a hospital or other clinical settings. In those settings, the structure and processes require patients to adapt to the organization.

In home health, we are the guests.  The ‘house rules’ could get in the way. Instead, Health Calls staff is focused on teamwork, alongside other community professionals to treat patients where they live. This requires actively listening to the patient and family: 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.

The balance of power shifts away from the healthcare team to the individual and their family in a healthy partnership. We support the patient and family while they build skills, and foster their confidence to continue to lead active and fulfilling lives, long after our work
is done.

We are thankful to be invited!

Safety Tip Sunday: What To Do With Symptoms of Heart Failure


The Mayo Clinic ‘s Guide on Heart Failure recommends that if a person experiences any of the following symptoms, that you seek emergency treatment if you experience any of the following:

Chest pain
Fainting or severe weakness
Rapid or irregular heartbeat associated with shortness of breath, chest pain or fainting
Sudden, severe shortness of breath and coughing up pink, foamy mucus

The diagram below breaks things down into a simple to follow traffic light signal guide (green light- things are fine; Yellow light- I have warning signs…I better beware; Red light- I need to stop and take action, I’m in trouble and I need help now).


Talk to your health care provider. Symptoms of heart failure can be treated to prevent a life-threatening event. Long term treatment solutions include medication, diet and lifestyle modifications, fluid balance management, and self-care monitoring. Follow your healthcare providers recommendations for a safe and healthy outlook!

Family Advocates: You Have Choices and Options for Loved Ones Needing Health Care

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Beth’s dad was in the hospital for two days and he was discharged from the hospital suddenly this morning. Yesterday, there was a referral for inpatient rehabilitation but that all changed this morning because he greatly improved overnight. Beth has had conversations with his hospital case manager concerning home health. Even though Beth is an RN, the case manager offered the services of just two specific home health agencies as possibilities since he is ready to go home today. Do Beth and her dad have a choice?

Like many people, I have been an advocate for family members who have been ill. Several years ago I  found myself in a similar situation. My dad was in the hospital after fracturing his hip. He wasn’t able to get out of bed or walk without help because of pain, weakness, and confusion. In my dad’s situation, the case manager told me Dad was accepted at a rehab, however she didn’t prep me or even ask me which rehab we would choose. Instead, she told me where she was sending him.

Wait…what? Where was Beth’s choice? Did I have a choice? Yes, we ALL have the right to choose, but we need to be assertive and use it. The health care system is moving very fast, and insurance companies and healthcare facility staff must look for ways to decrease health care costs. Like it or not, people are forced to move to lower cost settings in one or two days. It’s rapid fire and you’re left with confusion and potentially, limited choices. Choices

Choice is derived from the Patient Bill of Rights. Every patient is given this notice when receiving services in an inpatient setting. It is often housed in a folder or pamphlet provided by the hospital or other healthcare organization. The Patient Bill of Rights was adopted by the U.S. Advisory Commission on Consumer Protection and Quality in the Health Care Industry in 1998. Virtually any organization that provides services and bills Medicare and Medical Assistance are required to inform patients of these rights when they start providing services to the individual.

To be in the hospital or have a family member in the hospital is intimidating. As a caregiver, you may not have given much thought ahead of time to the process of planning your loved one’s next steps in care.

If someone has been in the hospital for more than a day or two, most of that time has most likely been spent in bed. Spending most of the time in bed sounds like a good thing to do, especially if the person is medically fragile. The body adjusts very quickly to this “downtime”. If the person was frail before going into the hospital (and really any healthy person who is in bed for more than several days) will have risks of a return trip to the hospital if a good plan is not in place.

Here are some suggestions when you find yourself in an advocacy role with a loved one in the hospital:

  1. Realize and recognize that there is a responsibility to advocate for your loved one. Be present, check in with daily phone calls and ask questions.
  2. Consider asking questions as soon as your loved one is admitted to the hospital. Call the hospital or during a visit, ask to speak to the case manager. Find out what their initial impression is for how long the hospital stay will be.
  3. Ask for a physical therapy evaluation. The physical therapy evaluation will help you determine if it’s safe for him or her to return right home or if rehabilitation will be needed.
  4. If a rehabilitation stay is needed, ask for a printed list of all the options in the area. You don’t have to go with the hospital’s first recommendation.
  5. If  a rehab hospital or nursing facility stay isn’t needed, consider home health, especially if your loved one has risk factors for a return trip to the hospital. If a hospitalized family member has frailty, there is a risk. Risks for re-hospitalization include:
  • unintended weight loss of 10 or more pounds over the last 90 days
  • fatigue or exhaustion
  • slow walking speed
  • weakness that requires help with walking or personal care
  • multiple health problems or chronic illnesses such as heart failure, emphysema, diabetes, high blood pressure
  • history of falls
  • taking 7 or more medications per day

6. You can select home health from a list, from your own personal experience, or based on the positive experiences of family or friends. The hospital case manager will set up the services for you and assure that the agency has the doctors orders and all of the paperwork needed.

Being proactive and assertive is smart and will assure that the transition to the next level of care or home is as seamless as possible, with as few surprises as possible. The end goal is always to return home without recurrence of problems and avoiding a trip back to the hospital.

Health Calls: Preferred Provider with Penn State Health Partners

Health Calls is proud to announce a preferred partner agreement with Penn State Health Partners. Health Calls remains a privately owned independent home health agency, owned by Mike Little and Maria Radwanski. The contracted agreement signed with Penn State Health Partners adds Health Calls Home Health Agency as a preferred partner in the Clinical Integrated Network made up of independently owned and operated health care organizations and physician groups working together to improve the population’s health, improve the health care experience for those served while stabilizing health care costs.

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Health Calls joins Penn State Health Partners as a preferred provider.

This clinical integrated network encompasses Mt. Nittany Hospital in Centre County, St. Joseph Regional Health Network in Berks County, and Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Hospital in Dauphin County; and a network of over 1,000 physicians in Berks County, Centre County, Dauphin, Schuylkill, Lebanon, and Lancaster counties. The post-acute network also includes skilled nursing facilities and home health agencies. Health Calls provides home health services in Berks County and some surrounding neighborhoods.

Mike Little, Chief Executive Officer, stated that “Health Calls was chosen as preferred partner because of our outcomes: the work that staff do every day is reflected in our patient clinical score improvements, low re-hospitalization rates, and customer satisfaction scores. This mirrors the caring our staff provide day in and day out.”

The clinical integrated network is also an accountable care organization, responsible for over 30,000 lives in a Medicare shared savings program.
“Health Calls will be charged with the responsibility for clinical outcomes and quality programs of the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center and St. Joseph Hospital network patients referred for services who are part of the Medicare Shared Savings Plan, orthopedic bundled payment program as well as other anticipated bundled payment programs coming soon,” stated Maria Radwanski RN MSN CRRN, the agency’s Chief Operating Officer.

Goals of the Penn State Health Partners are to enhance the patient experience of care, improve the health of the population of patients contracted to treat and care for, and stabilize the rising costs of health care.

Medicare Releases Star Ratings For Patient Experience: Health Calls Receives Top Rating

Medicare released the first “Patient Survey Star Ratings” for Medicare-certified home health agencies last week.

Health Calls Home Health Agency received a 5 star rating in Medicare’s Patient Survey Star Rating.

Health Calls response rate to surveys is 33%, which is “a very strong showing”, according to Mike Little, Health Calls CEO and owner. “The findings show that Health Calls is the best and most well-rounded choice for home health services in Berks County.”

Maria Radwanski, COO and co-owner indicates that patients have the ability to remain anonymous or reveal who they are when completing the survey. “Even so, many patients do reveal who they are and take the time to write a note about the health care providers they saw in their homes.”

One recently surveyed patient wrote ‘this was the best care I have had from any agency. I’ve had several falls and this one was there to push me to understand what I could do and what I shouldn’t’.

This patient received critical safety information, in a manner that reflects that she was given important feedback during treatment to improve. The staff was able to do so in a way that involved the patient in the change process and maintained the patient’s respect and dignity while making the necessary changes.

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What Matters to You? Flipping Health Care

Ninety-eight year old Millie lives with her son 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 a whole, old-fashioned deli pickle with her lunch, her son 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. Unfortunately, we haven't see huge dramatic changes, yet. Change requires many shifts in mind set and many shifts in how health care is delivered. Health care reform will 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.

Flipping Healthcare

Healthcare should be flipped, 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 her National Forum keynote last month.

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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 should listen. “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 moves away from health care to health.

Home health care providers are at an advantage with this focus. We negotiate, as invited guests, 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 build skills and confidence they need 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 in order for 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.

Don’t Let the Bed Bugs Bite!


When I was a kid, a frequent bed time saying was “Sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite!”. Bed bugs seemed to be an imagined problem that only resulted in a quirky good night salutation. Bed bugs weren’t real in our modern world, a problem of the past.

Today, bed bugs are back, a very real problem effecting households of all types, locally, regionally, and nationally. Bed bugs can become a nightmare for anyone who is experiencing an infestation.The Center for Disease Control offers information and advice.

The CDC reports that the resurgence of bed bugs is due to an increased resistance to available pesticides, increased travel both within the US and abroad, lack of adequate knowledge about pest control since the bugs were not a problem for many years, and the continuing decline or elimination of effective pest control programs at state and local public health agencies.

The Environmental Protection Agency offers some educational information about bed bugs. Common bed bug myths include:

Myth: You can’t see a bed bug.
Reality: You should be able to see adult bed bugs, nymphs and eggs with your naked eye.

Myth: Bed bugs live in dirty places.
Reality: Bed bugs are not attracted to dirt and grime; they are attracted to warmth, blood and carbon dioxide. However, clutter offers more hiding spots.

Myth: Bed bugs transmit diseases.
Reality: There have been no cases or studies that indicate bed bugs pass diseases from one host to another.

Myth: Bed bugs won’t come out if the room is brightly lit.
Reality: While bed bugs prefer darkness, keeping the light on at night won’t deter these pests from biting you.

Myth: Pesticide applications alone will easily eliminate bed bug infestations.
Reality: Bed bug control can only be maintained through a treatment strategy that includes a variety of techniques plus careful attention to monitoring. Proper use of pesticides may be part of the strategy, but will not by itself eliminate bed bugs. In addition, bed bug populations in different areas of the country have developed resistance to the ways many pesticides work to kill pests. If you’re dealing with a resistant population, some products and application methods may only make the problem worse. It is a good idea to consult a qualified pest management professional (PMP) if you have bed bugs in your home.

Bed bugs will travel to adjacent units in apartment complexes. The pests frequently hitch a ride home in suitcases during travel. Non-chemical heat treatments appear to be the most effective in eliminating infestations. A preventive measure to prevent an infestation after travel includes placing suitcases and other travel items in a sealed bag and leaving them in the sun for several hours so heat kills the pests. Clothing and other dryer-safe items can be laundered and placed in the dryer for at least an hour to eliminate the problem.