Tag Archives: information

A Healthy A1C Level

Long View: What Does A1C Mean to Me?

Our community liaison team has never met a health fair or expo they didn’t love! Health fairs and expos are great places to learn about the abundance of services available in our communities to support seniors and their families.

With brightly colored, free shopping bags in hand, visitors gather pens, lip balms, and hand sanitizers, along with informational brochures and contact information for everything from beautiful, new living communities to financial planning. I’ve never seen so many butterscotch hard candies in one place since my grandmother’s candy dish in the 1970s.

Many health fairs and expos offer free checkups for various parts of your body and health. Participants aren’t the only ones taking advantage of a little free TLC. So far this summer, I’ve had the kinks rubbed out of my neck, the skin on my face analyzed for sun damage, and my blood pressure checked.

But one of the most interesting tests I’ve done recently came from my friends at Memorial Hospital in Carthage, IL. They measured my A1C level.

“What is A1C?” I asked, with a donut in one hand and a cup of coffee with cream in the other.

A1C is the measurement of the average blood sugar levels for the past 3 months, they told me. “Oh no,” I said. “I can’t get that done today. I’m eating a donut!”

The kind nurses assured me to sit down and relax. No fasting is required. In the blink of an eye, my finger was (painlessly) pricked, and a small amount of my blood slipped into a tiny little tube. The tube took a 5-minute spin in the centrifuge, and bingo, my A1C for the past 3 months is…. I’ll keep you in suspense until the end.

The National Diabetes Education Initiative recommends that diabetics have the A1C measurement taken at least twice a year. Everyone else should measure A1C once every 3 years. The nurses from Carthage recommended that most people should have measurements below 5.7%, since measurements between 5.7 and 6.4% indicate a greater risk for becoming diabetic.

The daily measurement of glucose levels is very important for diabetics who need to keep their levels within healthy ranges. Knowing your 2- to 3-month average can help you determine your overall glucose health, which in turn can help you make healthy choices throughout each day, like about sleeping, playing, working, eating, and more.

And if you don’t have diabetes, knowing if you have a higher than average A1C level can be a valuable piece of information to help you make healthy changes to curb your chances of getting diabetes at some point in your life.

Those who are already diabetic should strive to lower their A1C to at least 7% when possible. This could be a struggle for those who suffer from the disease, but the research points toward a much lower risk of developing diabetic complications like eye, heart, and kidney disease the closer you can get to 7%.

To tell you the truth, waiting for my blood to spin around for those 5 minutes in the centrifuge had me sweating a little. This could be the year my chickens come home to roost. I’ll be having one of those special birthdays next year where everyone wears black. I’m not exactly the healthiest eater. Leggings and stretchy-fabric pants have become my best friends.

This A1C measurement was an important wake-up call for me. The good news is that I measured well below 5.7%.

While I could have spiked the football, declared myself invincible, and grabbed a second donut, I didn’t. I decided to really pay attention to this information and be grateful for my health today, maybe take an extra walk around the block every week. Next year, I’m setting my sights on something in the high 4s.

Pass the kale.

Lora Felger is a community and broker liaison at Health Alliance. She is the mother of 2 terrific boys, a world traveler, and a major Iowa State Cyclones fan.

Your Personal Health Coach

Vantage Point: A Helping Health Hand

Not every coach is as well known as Pete Carrol of the Seattle Seahawks, but Susan DeLong, our nurse case manager and health coach in our Wenatchee office, is key to our team.

She’s smart, caring, a good listener, and a compassionate advocate. You will probably never see her on TV, but in our members’ eyes, her work is just as important and meaningful as any superstar’s.

Managing a health condition can be hard, and a health coach is someone with extensive experience who can be a consistent source of support. There’s so much information that it can be hard to know what’s key. One of the benefits of a Medicare Advantage plan like ours is the free education and support a health coach can provide.

At Health Alliance, a health coach like Susan can give our members:

  • Answers to questions about their conditions
  • Tools and lifestyle skills to minimize the risk of problems
  • Information about self-care skills
  • Free educational materials and resources about managing conditions
  • Support on the phone at their convenience
  • Help keeping them, their provider, and their caregivers connected
  • Help making the most of their healthcare benefits

Health coaches do not replace medical care from a doctor, but instead work with their primary care physician as part of a team to make sure their management plan is working.

Compassionate nurses like Susan also help identify warning signs for possible health problems, and they make sure members have a plan, day or night, to handle those issues if they become serious.

Susan also works hard to troubleshoot these issues before they become serious health problems. For example, she helps members understand the importance of refilling prescriptions and outlines what they should do if their drugs run out too soon.

Susan even partners with community resource agencies, like Meals on Wheels and the Confluence Health Patient Service Department, to help our members overcome barriers to their care. She knows when a member has a hospital stay or ER visit, and she tracks follow-up appointments and makes sure any meds they’re sent home with will work well with their current prescriptions.

But just like famous coaches, a big part of the job is to motivate. Susan empowers our members to take an active part in their health by setting attainable goals, and we value the important role she plays in our team and in lending a helping hand to our members.

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.      

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

World Antibiotic Awareness Week

It’s World Antibiotic Awareness Week. Why should you care about antibiotic resistance?

Why It Matters

 

Reasons for the world antibiotic resistance crisis include:

  • Patients not finishing their full course of antibiotics

What You Can Do as a Patient

 

  • Health workers over-prescribing antibiotics

What You Can Do as a Health Worker

 

  • The overuse of antibiotics in livestock and fish farming

What You Can Do as a Part of Agriculture

 

  • Poor infection control in hospitals and clinics

How Antibiotic Resistance Spreads

 

  • Lack of hygiene and poor sanitation

What You Can Do as a Policy Maker

 

  • Lack of new antibiotics being developed

WHO_HWC_ 6x infographics_22.10.15

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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.

Learning About Your Family's Diabetes

Around the Web: You and Your Family’s Diabetes

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), in 2012, 29.1 million people had diabetes, and 8.1 million of them didn’t even know they had it. Managing you and your family’s diabetes can be a challenge.

Sometimes, you don’t realize the reach the disease can have on your health and your lives.

Diabetes Guides

These visual guides can help you understand the difference between type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes.

Your diabetes can affect your feet,  eyes, and mouth. These guides tell you how diabetes affects them, and ways to prevent problems.

Controlling your blood sugar through an insulin-based treatment plan can be tricky, but these tips can help.

Your blood sugar can also swing for reasons other than what you eat, so awareness is key.

When you’re first diagnosed, insulin injections can be a scary part of dealing with your diabetes. This guide can help walk you through the process.

You can also check out the YouTube video playlist Diabetes Basics from the ADA to learn more about how diabetes works and ways to protect yourself.

Your Family’s Diabetes

Of the 9.3% of the U.S. population who has diabetes, about 208,000 people are under age 20. And when you’re still growing up, the age difference can change the affects, both physically and emotionally.

The ADA’s page For Parents and Kids is a great place to start as you explore your child’s diabetes. Be Healthy Today; Be Healthy for Life is also an in-depth resource for kids and their families about living with type 2 diabetes.

The National Diabetes Education Program also has these PDFs of helpful info and tips written specifically for teens and their needs:

The ADA also has a page, Everyday Life, that helps you find resources to help your kids live with diabetes through all the stages and events of life. Topics include leaving them with babysitters, telling others, playing sports, and even parties, dating, and driving.

Their YouTube channel also has a playlist of videos to help you make sure your kids are Safe at School.

For additional resources and ways we can help, visit us online and join our Diabetes Disease Management program.

Who Can You Call? 2-1-1

Long View: Who You Gonna Call? Think Three Little Numbers

I have a good friend at Carle who seems to have all the answers. Let’s call her Sue. Sue is a great resource for me any time I have a question about Carle. She knows the department heads, where the various offices are and how things really work. She is a seasoned and respected contact for me (and many others, I am sure). It makes me wonder where average Joes can turn when they need information and resources.

It turns out there is a place to call – 2-1-1.

The program in Central Illinois is run by PATH, Inc. (Providing Access to Help), which provides services for seniors, people who are homeless and people in need of all ages. Their offices are located in beautiful Bloomington. The PATH website describes the 2-1-1 system this way: “United Way 2-1-1 is for times of crisis, as well as for everyday needs. 2-1-1 call specialists are available 24/7 to help individuals locate health and human services in their area—from mortgage, rent, and utility assistance to food, clothing, emergency shelter, counseling, and much more.”

I spoke to Jennifer Nettleton at PATH. She is the 2-1-1/Crisis Services program manager. Many times when we need help, we need it fast.

Nettleton told me, “2-1-1 helps stop the run-around between social service agencies. Rather than calling every agency in the phone book to find out if they have the services you need, you can now call one place to help get you that information.”

Funding for the program is provided in part by United Way organizations around the state. Our local service area covers 12 counties and one city with another 20 in the pipeline. Many other states have this program in place, so Illinois is making up for lost time.

Find out more about the program. I think many people in need, perhaps some of them Health Alliance Medicare members, will be comforted to know a resource is available 24/7. Of course I could just give Sue’s phone number to everyone, but I fear she might not be my friend anymore.

Honoring a Veteran

Vantage Point: Serving Those Who Served Us

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.  – John F. Kennedy

I have three sons who served in the armed services, one who is still an active-duty Marine. Every word of that quote means a tremendous amount to my family. We understand how the rigors, values and experiences of serving in the military shape a life. What I did not realize—until talking with Patti Strawn, RN, CHPN, of Central Washington Home Health and Hospice—was how that service influences how a veteran faces serious illness and the end of life.

There are currently 22 million U.S. veterans, and 1 of every 4 people who dies is a veteran. 20% of Confluence Health hospice patients are veterans, and understanding how to care for them seems the least we can do to repay them for their service.

A friend is a Vietnam vet, and even when going out for dinner he always chooses a seat facing the room and an exit. Many veterans cannot stand the thought of laying flat, and for some it takes a long time just to get into bed because of feelings of being trapped or confined.

Imagine that person in a nursing home, hospital, or hospice situation.

Each veteran’s needs are unique and can be influenced by a number of factors, like which war they fought in, rank, branch, enlisted or drafted, prisoner of war and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. For some veterans, the pride of serving their country is a source of comfort at the end of life. For others, hard memories may bring up pain, emotional issues, and the need for forgiveness. The military culture of stoicism, “big boys don’t cry” and guilt for making it back when others did not can also present hurdles—especially when the inability to express those long-hidden feelings prevents a peaceful passing.

It is never too late to welcome a hero home. In celebration of Memorial Day, Health Alliance Medicare encourages you to honor veterans still with us by acknowledging their brave and selfless service, and by encouraging them to register with their local Veterans Affairs (VA) office. The VA works to make sure every single veteran has compassionate end-of-life care.

Visit WeHonorVeterans.org for additional information or resources.