Tag Archives: primary care physician

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.      

Preventing Colorectal Cancer

A Cancer You Can Help Prevent with Screening

The American Cancer Society estimates there will be 93,090 new cases of colon cancer in 2015 and another 36,610 cases of rectal cancer.

Your risk of getting colorectal cancer is 1 in 20. It is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths. It will kill nearly 50,000 people this year alone.

But it doesn’t have to.

Colorectal cancer is also highly preventable. Screenings can find polyps, or small abnormal growths in the colon or rectum. Over time, these polyps can become cancer. Removing them before that happens can save lives.

These screenings also can catch cancer at an early stage, and treatment at this point often leads to being cured. About 9 out of every 10 people with this type of cancer who get treatment early are still alive in 5 years, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Colonoscopies and sigmoidoscopies are screening exams for colorectal cancer, and they’re very similar procedures. In both, a doctor looks for polyps with small cameras.

People are usually given medicine to relax and sleep during a colonoscopy. Once you’re 50, you should start having this done once every 10 years depending on your risk for colorectal cancer.

People usually don’t need medicine before a sigmoidoscopy, and this test is usually done once every 5 years.

While the number of people getting these screenings has been slowly growing, many more lives could be saved.

In 2010, it was estimated that only 60% of those who should be getting these tests were getting them. About 1 in 3 Americans, or 23 million adults between 50 and 75 years old aren’t getting tested. Medicare-aged adults in particular aren’t getting this important test.

According to the American Cancer Society, the number of colon cancer deaths in the U.S. could be cut in half if Americans followed the recommended screening guidelines.

And it’s so easy to protect yourself! Just talk to your primary care doctor about your risk for colorectal cancer and when and how often you should get screened.

Battling Winter and SAD

Long View: You Can Kick the Winter Blues

The holidays are over, and I seem to have survived. But I still have a long way to go to get through winter. I head out for work when the sun is coming up and get home well after dark. It surprises me every year, but I should probably expect it at this stage of the game. The biggest impact to me is the large increase in my power bill, but I guess that’s the price of living in central Illinois.

Unfortunately, the decrease in sunlight hours affects some people in a more serious way. They lack energy and lose interest in their work and social activities. They usually feel energetic during the rest of the year, but the winter saps their enthusiasm for everything.

If you feel like this, you might have Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But you can feel better. Dr. John Beck, Health Alliance Vice President and Senior Medical Director, has lots of advice.

“Start with your primary care physician to make sure there aren’t any underlying medical issues,” Beck says. “Your primary care physician can treat you for SAD or refer you to a specialist. It’s important to pay attention to the symptoms and what you are experiencing. Unfortunately, some of our older patients are less likely to complain about feeling depressed, even though there are lots of treatment options available. People who don’t report their symptoms will continue to experience them every year unless they address the root problem.”

People shouldn’t have to feel depressed all winter. If you have SAD, go to your primary care doctor. He or she can point you in the right direction. If you think a loved one has SAD, talk to him or her about getting the care he or she needs.

We can’t make this season any less dark or cold, but we can help you get the support and treatment you need to feel better this winter.