Tag Archives: chronic conditions

Team Up for Greatness

Vantage Point: To Be A Star

There is a patch of I-5 South, just as you turn the bend, where The Tacoma Dome comes into view, and the sight always makes my heart jump into my throat. Opened in 1983, The Dome has hosted major concerts, professional sports competitions, and events. Most importantly for me, it’s also the place where Washington state high school athletes compete at the championship level.

My boys got to experience the honor of standing up among their peers as a part of a team of excellence on December 7, 2008, when Cashmere won the 1A High School Football State Championship. It’s a memory that I, and most of the town, which filled one whole side of the dome, will never forget.

This accomplishment started with the players, who had been honing their skills since grade school. It also took a school backing them with quality equipment and coaching, a town believing in them, and parents dedicated to supporting their goals. The second-string players, who only got a few seconds on the field that day, were just as important as the starters. In practice, they were the ones who helped the starters sharpen their skills. To say the least, they were all stars that day.

I am fortunate in my professional work to also be part of an amazing team. A team, which I say with great pride, whose Washington Medicare plans just earned 4.5 out of 5 stars from the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services.*

These Star Ratings measure more than just customer service. They also measure help managing chronic conditions, member complaints, working with providers to help members stay healthy, and members’ overall experience with the plan.

This achievement means a lot. It validates our efforts at Health Alliance and lets us know we are taking good care of our members. But just like a championship football team, we respect this is not an individual endeavor, and we appreciate all of you for sharing access to your resources and welcoming us into your communities. There is no way we could have accomplished this without your support and collaboration. As we share this esteemed recognition with you, please know, we sincerely count you as a member of our team, and we couldn’t have done it without you.

Shannon Sims is a Medicare community liaison for Health Alliance, serving Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties in Washington. She has four sons and two grandsons. During her time off, she performs as part of a rodeo drill team on her horse, Skeeter.

 

*Medicare evaluates plans based on a 5-Star Rating System. Star Ratings are calculated each year and may change from one year to the next.

National Psoriasis Awareness Month

National Psoriasis Awareness Month

August is National Psoriasis Awareness Month, and 7.5 million people are living with it now, and 30% will develop psoriatic arthritis.

And 59% of people with psoriasis report it’s a problem in their everyday life. Learn more.

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Psoriasis is an autoimmune disease that causes red, scaly patches on the skin, and 52% of those who have it aren’t satisfied with treatment.

Psoriasis on elbow. Medical treatment

 

33% of those suffering from psoriasis report social interactions are hurt by their disease.

Businessman applying sun screen

 

72% of psoriasis sufferers are overweight or obese, which increases their risk of having it on top of other chronic conditions.

Psoriasis is more common than you know. Pop icon Cyndi Lauper started talking about her own psoriasis in July. You’re not alone.

Volksstimme Fotos Ausgabe SAW

 

Are you newly diagnosed? The National Psoriasis Foundation has a psoriasis One-on-One to help you talk to someone who understands.

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Looking to learn more about psoriasis treatment, research, or to get involved? The National Psoriasis Foundation’s Free Health Webcasts can help.

Beautiful girl applying cream on legs

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Your Insurance Team's Support

Vantage Point: We Work Together to Support You

Painted in the stairwell of Samaritan Hospital is an inspirational message, “All of us, for each of you.” The same can be said of our Health Alliance Medicare team in North Central Washington that works together to provide elevated customer service for members and our provider partnerships.

Eileen, our program assistant, is the first face members see when they visit the Wenatchee office. Eileen feels that by supporting staff and prioritizing tasks, she can focus all her attention on members when they come in.

“Health Alliance isn’t just insurance coverage,” she says. “It is a place to come if you have questions, are seeking information, or would just like a cup of coffee and an ear.”

Jessica, our bilingual customer service representative, says, “The most rewarding part of my job is having the ability to see our members face to face, build relationships, and let them know I am here to listen and help.”

Through her role at Health Alliance, Teri, our customer service lead, hopes to insure our members only have good experiences when adverse situations arise. Teri credits the overall team from claims to medical management for its support in helping her achieve her goal.

Major procedures, hospitalization, surgeries, and discharge plans all need prior approval, and Cindy, our utilization review nurse on the medical management team, uses her experience in risk management, coupled with patient advocacy, to take care of our members through major health issues, thus controlling unnecessary costs.

Medicare is not only complicated for our members, it can be complicated for providers as well. Therefore, Leslie, our provider relations specialist, works directly with clinical staff members to help them understand policies, procedures, and operating systems. By providing face-to-face customer service at the provider offices, it makes providers’ jobs easier, positively impacting their care of our members.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services ranks Medicare Advantage plans on a five-star scale, and factors within that quality scale relate to providers assessing, managing, and controlling chronic conditions. Amanda, our coding consultant, works directly with physicians to provide coding education and finds it rewarding when she and the doctors learn something from each other, ensuring overall great health care to our members.

Whether they’re working with members or providers or making medical decisions behind the scenes, these are just a few of the local people committed to working together toward the common goal of ensuring quality of care, setting Health Alliance Medicare apart in North Central Washington.

Understand Blood Pressure

Understanding Blood Pressure

Getting your blood pressure checked is nothing new. But do you understand it all?

What Exactly Is Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure’s the force of your blood pushing against the walls of your arteries. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is a common disease when that pressure of the blood flowing through the blood vessels is too high.

If your blood pressure gets too high, it can cause serious damage which can lead to blockage which can cause heart attacks, strokes, and heart failure.

There are 2 main types of high blood pressure:

  • Primary high blood pressure is the most common type and it tends to develop as you age.
  • Secondary high blood pressure is caused by another medical condition or use of certain medicines and it usually goes away when this issue is treated.

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

  • Age – Men usually develop it around age 45 and women after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure and serious complications are more common for African Americans.
  • Family history – It tends to run in families.
  • Certain chronic conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy
  • Being overweight
  • Not being physically active
  • Tobacco use
  • Too much salt
  • Too much alcohol
  • Too little potassium
  • Too little vitamin D

If you have some of these other risk factors, your doctor may set your blood pressure target lower.

What Are the Numbers?

  • Systolic is the pressure in your arteries when your heart contracts, the top number.
  • Diastolic is when your heart rests, the bottom number.

 What Are They Doing?

When a nurse takes your blood pressure, you might wonder what they’re doing. These are the steps they’re following:

  • They wrap the blood pressure cuff around your arm.
  • They place a stethoscope under the cuff at the crease of your elbow (where the major blood vessel of the upper arm is.)
  • They inflate the cuff until it stops the flow of blood.
  • They slowly loosens the cuff’s valve to let the blood start to flow again and listen for sounds in the blood vessel.
  • Then, the first tapping noise they hear, they’ll note as the systolic number, the maximum pressure when the heart contracts.
  • The taps fade, and they note the pressure at the last tap as your diastolic number, the minimum pressure while your heart’s at rest.
  • Along with your numbers, they note which arm they took your blood pressure on and how you were positioned, like sitting with your feet flat.

 Where Should My Numbers Be?

Systolic Measure

Diastolic Measure

What to Do

Normal

Below 120

Below 80

Maintain a healthy lifestyle to avoid raising your levels.

High-normal

120 to 139

80 to 89

Make lifestyle changes.

High

140 to 159

90 to 99

Make lifestyle changes. Possibly start a low-level diuretic.

Extremely High

160 or higher

100 or
higher

Often 1 or 2 meds are required right away, plus lifestyle changes.

Source: Consumer Reports, “onHealth”, Volume 23 Number 2

It’s also normal for your blood pressure to change when you sleep, wake up, are active, and are excited or nervous.

If you’re worried about your blood pressure, keep an eye on your levels and take them with you to your next appointment. A broad look at your numbers can help your doctor put you on the right track for heart health.

Reasons You Have High Blood Pressure

Breaking Down Why You Have High Blood Pressure

Risk Factors for High Blood Pressure

Some people are more likely to have high blood pressure, and this can be because of things you can’t control, or because of lifestyle choices you make.

  • Age – The risk of high blood pressure increases with time. Men usually develop it around age 45 and women after age 65.
  • Race – High blood pressure and serious complications are more common for African Americans.
  • Family History – High blood pressure tends to run in families.
  • Certain Chronic Conditions – Kidney disease, diabetes, and sleep apnea can raise your blood pressure.
  • Stress
  • Pregnancy – Your blood pressure may be raised during pregnancy.
  • Being Overweight – The more you weigh, the more blood your body has to pump to perform normal tasks like carrying oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. That more blood that’s pumping, the higher the pressure.
  • Not Being Physically Active – Not being active usually makes your heart rate higher, which means your heart’s working harder than it should and pumping more.
  • Tobacco Use – Smoking and chewing tobacco raise your blood pressure temporarily, but it can also damage your arteries which raises your blood pressure in the long-term.
  • Too Much Salt –  When you eat too much salt, you also gain water-weight, which increases your blood pressure.
  • Too Much Alcohol – Heavy drinkers can damage their heart over time.
  • Too Little Potassium – Potassium helps balance sodium in your body.
  • Too Little Vitamin D – Not enough vitamin D in your diet might affect an enzyme your body makes that affects your blood pressure.

If you have some of these other risk factors, your doctor may set your blood pressure target lower.

Other Causes of High Blood Pressure

If you have secondary high blood pressure, it’s caused by an underlying condition. It usually appears suddenly and goes away when the condition has been treated. These things might cause it:

  • Sleep apnea
  • Kidney problems
  • Adrenal gland tumors
  • Thyroid problems
  • Birth defects in your blood vessels
  • Certain meds, like birth control pills, anti-depressants, cold remedies, decongestants, over-the-counter pain relievers, and some prescription drugs
  • Illegal drugs like cocaine

Reasons for High Blood Pressure After Meds

Some find that even though they’ve gotten on a medication, their blood pressure is still not low enough. If you find that your blood pressure is higher than normal at certain times, think about these factors.

Lifestyle Choices

Some of your lifestyle choices could be raising your blood pressure.

  • Quit smoking, and cut back on alcohol and caffeine.
  • De-stress.
  • Watch your diet.
  • Get active.
  • Make sure you’re taking your meds exactly as your doctor prescribed.
  • Visit your doctor for regular checkups.

The Season

Believe it or not, studies show that the season can have an effect on your blood pressure. It’s more likely to go back to normal levels in the spring and summer than it is in the winter, no matter if you live in a very cold climate or a very warm one.

Perhaps it’s because it’s harder to get out and exercise and because of the extra pounds you can pack on during the holiday season. Either way, this means in the winter, it might be necessary to take higher doses of meds or even different drugs. Talk to your doctor if you notice this seasonal difference in your readings.

Medications

Did this raise go hand-in-hand with a new pill you started? Did you get a cold and start taking some over-the-counter meds you don’t normally?

Check to make sure that what you’re taking isn’t to blame. And talk to your doctor about the risk or if you should make changes to your prescriptions.

Bigger Problems

If your blood pressure is still strangely high, your doctor might need to adjust your meds. And if this still doesn’t help, it might be a sign of something more serious, like kidney problems or a chronic condition. Then, it’s time for a doctor’s appointment and maybe some tests to find the cause.