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Sunday, April 23, 2017

Empowered Work Environments: Ensuring a Culture of Success




Today, the term empowerment is used in all aspects of the healthcare system. Before we can empower patients, healthcare teams need to ensure their workplace cultures encourage education and a forum where learning and growth are nurtured. 

In this week's post, I would like to explore the word empowerment and what it means to today's workforce. 

The term empowerment refers to the activity of the leader to give power to others to enable them to control their destiny and protect their rights.  Leaders must give the power to their subordinates in a way that they feel they have control over their destiny and therefore is the key to the road to a successful work environment.

Kanter, the most recognized theorist on structural empowerment, identified five components that must be present before participants of a workforce will be empowered. They include:


  • Opportunity (growth, mobility, promotion and recognition)
  • Knowledgebase (opportunity to learn and grow)
  • Necessary resources (having the tools and the staff to do the job safely and effectively)
  • Information (data, monitoring of improvement and technical skill to do the job)
  • Support (guidance and feedback from leaders, peers, and subordinates)


Kanter’s research has been found to demonstrate that by providing these conditions to employees, it has been shown that there is increased job satisfaction, commitment, trust and a marked decrease in job burnout. 

So how is your work environment? Take time to see if you work in an empowered workplace! If not, take the time to collaborate with your team to change the culture of your workplace. 

Do you work in an empowered workplace? If so, share how this environment has improved the outcomes you and your team have produced. Make a comment in the comment box below or email me at allewellyn48@gmail.com and share information about your work environment. I will share comments in a future post.

Resource: 


 A new book just released by an expert in Medical Improv. If you are looking for a way to improve your organizations' culture, communications and empower your teams to be the best they can be, check out Medical Improv a New Way to Improve Communications! The book explains the theory behind medical improve and also provides specific exercises you can include in staff meetings, in-services or other staff activities. Take advantage of the publication release discount.  Click here to order your copy! 



Sunday, April 9, 2017

Cost, Quality, and Access: The Three Ingredients for a Stable Health Care System






Last week’s post focused on the responsibility of having health care insurance. The purpose of health insurance is to help you pay for care whether it be preventative or diagnostic services. Insurance protects you and your family financially in the event of an unexpected serious illness or injury that could be very expensive. Having health insurance provides access to physicians, providers, and resources to enable your health and wellness.

In this week’s post, I wanted to continue the conversation and talk about two other ingredients essential for a stable health care system; improving quality and containing costs. In 2016, the United States spent $3.2 trillion on health care which comes to about $10,000 for every person. The high cost of health care spending impacts every sector of the economy. As a result, legislative leaders, employers, and the general public are asking the question ‘are we getting a good return on investment for the dollars spent’? To answer this question, I turned to a recent  Commonwealth Fund report that despite having the most expensive healthcare system in the world, the United States ranks last overall among 11 industrialized countries on measures of health system quality, efficiency, access to care, equity, and healthy lives.

The costs of healthcare impacts every sector of our economy. Experts say that we, as a country, cannot sustain the rising costs of health care spending. The Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010 and put into place incremental efforts to control spending and improve the outcomes across the healthcare system. Today, a great deal of work is being undertaken to find ways to improve quality and slow health care spending. Some of the things that have been implemented include:

Implementation of Health Information Technology: Health information technology is changing the way healthcare is delivered and paid for. It has been said that over the next 8 years, we will see more innovation than we have seen in the last 18 years. Now that the healthcare industry is getting ‘wired’ we are safer, more efficient and able to use data to improve the quality of care provided. We still have a long way to go to make the system interoperable, but efforts are in place to test more and more innovative strategies in place that will revolutionize the industry so that communication is better, the system is more efficient and safer for all who transition through the care continuum.

Payment Models: Up until now, payment models for hospitals, physicians, and other providers were based on paying for products and services. Due to the rising cost of healthcare spending, changes to payment models are being tried in efforts to bend health care spending curve. Examples include; Value-Based Purchasing models that reward physicians and other providers for the quality of care they provide.  Today, due to the information technology systems in place, data is available that allows leaders to see how individual providers are caring for the populations and the outcomes achieved. As a result, new payment models are in place to reward physicians and organization who work with patients and their families in educating them about their conditions and the treatment options in place to treat them. Another payment model being implemented are Bundled Payment Models. Bundled Payment Models are designed to pay multiple providers for coordinating the total amount of services required for a single, pre-defined episode of care. Because we now have a way to collect, analyze and review data on processes and costs, experts have started to put together payment models on procedures that are repeated over and over. For example, planned hip or knee replacements, kidney transplants or care about a myocardial infarction are good examples where bundled payments can be used. By looking at overall costs, hospitals and physicians know what these procedures should cost, how many days a patient should be in the hospital and what therapies, equipment and resources are needed. Taking all the factors into account, payments are now being ‘bundled’. What this comes down to is that physicians and all members of the health care team have to work together to be efficient at every step, from diagnosis to preparing the patient for surgery, to post-op care, in preventing infections and safe discharge planning to avoid a costly setback. Educating and empowerment the consumer is also a critical part of the process, as, without their involvement, none of these models will work. Health care leaders who can operationalize these processes will do well. Those who can not/will not, will not do well under these new payment models.  

Focus on Quality Improvement Efforts: There's never been a more critical time in the history of U.S. health care system for health care professionals to turn to clinical analytics to help them survive — and thrive amidst the trials of health care reform. Overcoming the challenges of reform will ultimately result in improved quality of care delivery and decreased costs. But reaching that point will require significant changes to the way healthcare has historically operated. Health systems need to measure and report on the care they're delivering. They must also understand the financial ramifications of individual care decisions. This approach is quite a change in the traditional fee-for-service business model. But by using clinical analytics to dig into their wealth of captured data, both providers and health systems will be able to gain the critical knowledge they need to answer many questions about care delivery and how to improve it. In addition, federal regulations in the form of incentives are being put in place for providers and organizations who meet certain metrics. Disincentives are also in place for those who don’t meet metrics. National accreditation is another way quality of care can be improved and variation decreased across the broad healthcare system. Accreditation is an evaluative, rigorous, transparent, and comprehensive process in which a health care organization undergoes an examination of its systems, processes, and performance by an impartial accrediting body to ensure that it is conducting business in a manner that meets predetermined criteria and is consistent with national standards. Achieving Accreditation allows all members of the healthcare team from the payer and provider side to have a common bond that is integral to improving the delivery of care and containing costs.  

The Move to Evidenced-Based Care is a causing sea change in how medicine is practiced and delivered in hospitals, clinics and physician practices across the country. Evidence-based medicine includes three key components; research-based evidence, clinical expertise (i.e., the clinician’s accumulated experience, knowledge, and clinical skills), and the patient’s values and preferences. Practicing evidence-based medicine is important in today’s healthcare environment because this model of care offers clinicians a way to achieve the Triple Aim’s objectives of improved quality, improved patient satisfaction, and reduced costs. Payers have systems in place to ensure appropriate use of health care resources through the use of evidenced-based medicine.

Consumer Engagement: A shift is underway as more financial risk in paying for health care migrates from payers to consumers (with providers sharing the risk when individuals cannot pay) and from groups to individuals. For the consumer, this means an increasing obligation to pay a greater share of their health care costs through rising premiums, deductibles, copays, and coinsurance. As a result, consumers are demanding to be part of the decision-making process when it comes to their health and healthcare. In addition, health organizations, physicians, and others are realizing consumers are the most important, yet the most underutilized resource in the health care system. Healthcare organizations are turning to consumers to find ways to provide patient-centered that is safe, high in quality and meets the goals of the individual. If we are honest, the health care system is designed for those who work in the health care system and not the end users, the patient or their families. To re-design the system to be more patient and family centered, patient and family advisory councils are being set up as a way for patients and their families to provide input into their experience, what is important to them when they use the system and what they want to see to improve the system for THE PATIENT and the FAMILY.  Health care professionals also realize that consumers must be educated to take an active role in their health and healthcare. Efforts are being implemented to work together with consumers and their families so that care is based on their goals. Healthcare professionals are being educated in new strategies that they can use to help consumers understand the importance of adherence, behavioral change and active involvement in their health and health care.

Patient Advocacy: the practice of patient advocacy is growing to meet the needs of consumers as they strive to better understand how to use the health care system when they are thrust into the system with an injury or a complex medical or behavioral health condition. Just like a financial planner, certified public accountant or attorney are hired to assist a person with their financial or legal needs, patient advocates are being hired to help the patients and their families navigate the complex healthcare system. Advocates do not provide hands-on care but are in place to do research and advocate on behalf of the person so they have a voice in the system. Advocates come from different specialties and can be found in the hospital or in private practice. Depending on their education and area of expertise, they may specialize in areas such as medical advocacy, medical billing or assisting families when caregiving issues become complex and new living arrangements are needed. Patient Advocates work to take the burden off the patient and their families and guide them through the maze of choices that can meet their needs. Because they are in place for the patient and family, they are objective players and in place to represent the patient and family to the health care team. To learn more about Patient Advocacy, visit the Patient Advocate Certification Board. To find an advocate, visit the AdvoConnection.   

Case Management: case managers are advanced practice professionals who are in place to assist the patient in navigating the complex healthcare system. Case managers can be found at every entry point of the health care system. If a patient or the family member has a question or concern about their care, asking for a case manager can help you find the right person to answer your question, address your concerns and ensure the team is aware of barriers and challenges the patient/family are having. Case Managers are trouble shooters who understand how the system works and can break down barriers and find resources to meet the individual needs of patients and families.  Case managers, regardless of their setting follow a set of standards of practice that guide their practice. 


As you can see the health care industry is undergoing a great deal of disruption as it recalibrates to address the challenges needed to have a stable and efficient health care system in 2017. Redesigning the health care system has been put off due to its complexities of this huge task. We as a country cannot put off this job off any longer due to the rising costs of health care and the impact on our economic health. To be successful, all members of the health care team, payers, and every consumer must be part of the process as we move forward as w cross the quality chasm to build a health care system for the 21st century.  

Thank you for reading Nurse Advocate. I look forward to your comments, insights and recommendations for future comments. 

Friday, March 31, 2017

Having Health Care Insurance Might not be a Right, but it is a Responsibility




By now, I am sure you know that the Republican Plan to replace the Affordable Care Act titled The American Health Care Act was pulled before lawmakers could cast their votes by the Speaker of the House Paul Ryan and President Trump because they did not have the votes to pass the Bill. As a result, the Affordable Care Act also known as Obama Care remains the law of the land (for now).

The battle is not over as our country still needs to find solutions to growing troubles that plague our healthcare system as a country. To help YOU,  I am going to provide some insights as to how I see the situation, the difference between health care and health care insurance and why in my view you cannot have one without the other. WE the people have to speak up and share our experiences and let our legislative leaders know how we feel. We do have a voice, and we all need to use it. 
Most people following the dysfunction and rhetoric coming out of DC know that the ACA (aka Obama Care) was never a perfect plan. This was acknowledged by experts, healthcare professionals, President Obama and the legislative leaders who crafted the law and passed it in 2010. The ACA is the vehicle developed to help our country address the growing number of uninsured in our country, the escalating costs of associated with healthcare costs and the challenges the healthcare system has in providing safe, quality, effective care.
Today, with health care costs reaching 3 trillion dollars, the security and economic future of the US is at risk. All know that our country cannot continue to handle escalating health care costs and pay for the other necessary services we need to live safely. We all know something has to be done – yet our legislative leaders will not put aside their political ideologies to address the problem in a way that is palpable to all stakeholders. 
I think it is important to remember that the ACA put over 20 million people who did not have health care insurance for one reason on another onto the health insurance rolls. This was a huge lift to providers of healthcare organizations who are in place to care for the population. It was also a huge lift to insurance companies as they now had 20 million new subscribers paying premiums for the privilege of having insurance.
Despite these wins, we hear the ACA is imploding. Premiums are rising, and many insurance companies have or are planning to pull out of the market. Why? The answer is complicated. One explanation is RISK. Insurance companies do not like risk as it brings uncertainty to the market. With uncertainty there is instability and instability causes companies to find ways to cover their ‘expected' losses. To minimize risks, insurance companies are raising premiums on everyone and pulling out of markets that they view as unstable.
Another reason suggested for the failure of the ACA is that young people, healthy people, did not sign up as expected to offset the costs of those who did sign up but were sick. To help address this, the ACA put in a mandate that if someone did not obtain health care insurance, he or she would have to pay the penalty. Unfortunately, many people chose to take the penalty as they did not want ‘to be told’ they had to buy insurance, by the Government. As a result, the numbers of ‘healthy’ people in the pool was lower causing the system to be unbalanced. As a result, this led to uncertainty and caused the insurance to ‘lose' money. As a result, insurers are raising rates and in many cases, pulled out of the market. 
The other issue that has caused contentions about the Affordable Care Act is that there were incentives put in for people who made too much money to qualify for Medicaid but did not earn enough money to pay for an individual policy or an employee-sponsored policy.
In my opinion, we as a country have come to terms with the fact that to have access to health care services; you have to have health care insurance. As we know nothing is free. As a country, we need to educate everyone that it is a personal responsibility to have health care insurance as one never knows when and accident, an injury or a serious medical condition will occur. I also am of the belief that if people cannot afford to buy their own policy, the government can help. 
No one knows what the future will bring. However, from history we are aware that life can change on a dime, causing us to need healthcare services. Without healthcare insurance, sustaining an injury or being diagnosed with a serious illness becomes a financial burden that not many of us can handle.
If you have followed Nurse Advocate, you know that up until November 23, 2014, I was healthy. I pondered this question many times: "why do I need to have health insurance when I am healthy"? I took care of myself by having my preventative services done, and that is the extent of when I used the healthcare system, so why should I pay for a policy?
For me, everything changed on November 24, 2014, when I was diagnosed with a Central Nervous System Brain Tumor. Having health insurance from my employer-sponsored health plan allowed me to go to a top rated cancer center, be evaluated and treated by an expert team of professionals who saved my life. Even as a cancer survivor, I still have care needs that are costly. Today, I am on COBRA as I am unable to go back to work. The cost of COBRA is sobering; $1100.00 a month. Having this policy allows me to get the check-ups I need to have to be alerted if there is a reoccurrence allowing my doctor will find a problem early. Today, my husband and I pay our premium as not having an insurance plan would be financially devastating. I now realize the value of having health care insurance is not a choice, but my responsibility. It enables me to have access to the services and keep the doctors who saved my life.
As a nurse, a case manager and nurse advocate leader, I realize that not everyone can afford to pay this type of premium. For those who cannot afford to pay their health insurance premium, they have few choices; one being to go without care or pay privately. We all know realistically that not many people can afford to pay for health care services personally - so they go to the ED where they cannot be turned away. These people also wait till they are very sick and have to go somewhere. Most times, they are admitted to the hospital, to treat the complications and to see the specialists they need. As a result, they build up debt, lose their life's savings and are forced to claim bankruptcy. The hospitals and providers who care for people without insurance also lose. In most cases, the costs of caring for the un and underinsured are passed onto those who do have insurance causing the cycle to continue. 
As I wind Part One up, I hope you can see that having health insurance is a necessity. When one person becomes sick, the illness or injury does not just impact that person but also affects their family, the organizations they visit and the providers who care for them. So maybe having healthcare insurance is not a right. However, it is a responsibility that each of us has to come to accept. Having healthcare insurance gives you access to the healthcare industry to get the care and services needed. 
To have a stable, healthy health care system, three things are necessary: Access, Cost, and Quality. When one is not stable, the system cannot stand. I do not claim to have the answers for how to fix our health care system. However, I do believe that we as a country can and should come together to work on the problem as it is not going away.
Next week, I will look into the area of quality and what is happening in the system to ensure our health care system delivers safe, quality healthcare to all who use the system and the role we each play. 
If you have any comments, please share in the comment box or email me directly at allewellyn48@gmail.com. 
Thanks for reading Nurse Advocate! 

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Care Coordination For Those Who Serve or Have Served








Recently, I had the opportunity to present and attend a conference titled the United States Special Operations Command Warrior Care Program. The focus of the program was to look at the enduring warrior care challenges that the Department of Defense and the Veterans Administration have in meeting the needs of those injured in the line of duty.   

It was an honor to be part of this program and learn about the important work being done to assist the men and women of the US Military when they are wounded or diagnosed with a medical condition. As part of the program, Recovery Care Coordinators are assigned to the person and their family to make sure they receive the care and resources needed to meet their needs. The Recovery Care Coordinators are in place to break down barriers so that those in need can focus on recovery and when possible reintegration back to active duty. If the person cannot return to active duty, the Recovery Care Coordinators assist them with the transition out of active duty and into the VA System.

I met so many people who worked in this program and found them caring and passionate professionals who are laser focused on their duties. The Recovery Care Coordinators ranged in rank and experience, but all had a common purpose; to ensure each serviceman and women they worked with had what they needed to be the best they could be. The program is a model that all of us on the civilian side could emulate.   

As I listened to the various speakers, I learned about the history of the Recovery Care Program, some of the challenges found within the system and about various programs that are making a difference while helping service men and women re-invent themselves after a life changing injury. One such program was the Adaptive Sports Program that inspires physical and emotional recovery by focusing on the person's abilities versus their disabilities and helps those who participate set goals to strive for in a competitive yet caring environment.  There were several members of various sports teams at the conference who shared how these programs help with their physician and emotional recovery. These programs are making a difference in helping those wounded to recover and re-integrate back into life while finding their ‘new normal.'

As a leader in the field of case management and patient advocacy, I was proud to have a front role seat to learn about the important work being done to assist our men and women who serve to protect us, have a program such as the Recovery Care Coordinator Program when they need help. 

Regardless of what you read in the paper, or see on the news, please know that there is a tremendous amount of work being done for our men and women who make up our military to provide care, resources, and support for injured or ill. 

As I left the program, I felt proud to be able to impart my experience and expertise to such a dedicated group of professionals.

Here are some resources you might want to read about to learn more about this outstanding program.


 Adaptive Sports Inspire Physical, Emotional Recovery at the 2016 DoD Warrior Games: http://warriorcare.dodlive.mil/2016/06/13/adaptive-sports-inspire-physical-emotional-recovery-at-the-2016-dod-warrior-games


CMSA Today: Case Management for Those who Serve and Have Served. Military Case Management http://www.nxtbook.com/naylor/CMSQ/CMSQ1416/index.php


Thanks for reading Nurse Advocate! 

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Create Your Own Holiday and Celebrate it Every Year!



I belong to a service organization known as Quota International. I am a member of a local Club in Plantation FL. Each year, the members choose a Sunday to celebrate our collective birthdays. This year, as we gathered, one of our members explained to the group that she was creating her own holiday starting this year and would celebrate it every year going forward. She explained the reason she is celebrating because, this time last year, February 26, she was in a car accident that nearly took her life. 

Today, one year later she is doing well, moving forward and celebrating! Her holiday is going to be called the Tree of Life Celebration. She gave each of us a small gift bag which contained a photo of the Tree of Life, a Tree of Life medal which we could wear to celebrate our own life. In addition, she also gave us this poem by Mia Ocean. It reads……

This tree is not only a tree
it is a friendly tree that is always watching over you.
This tree is not only a tree
it is a magical tree.
That makes miracles happen,
Hopes become realities,
and nevers become always.
This tree
is not only a tree,
it is where everything started.
It is the tree of life.

I hope this post inspires you to create your own holiday and celebrate it every year! We all have something to celebrate….what will your celebration be about?
Have a good week! 





Sunday, February 19, 2017

I Have Bad News




It’s a nightmare situation. The doctor tells you that you or a loved one has a life-altering condition — something that is going to call on your deepest resources of strength to handle. A bad diagnosis can land like a bomb, frightening and disorienting you in a way that little else can.

Even though a scary diagnosis can turn your world upside down, there are practical strategies you can use to take the best next steps and bring balance back to your life. Here are a few:

Know your feelings will improve. In the immediate aftermath of a diagnosis, the anxiety and fear can feel destabilizing and permanent. But those emotions are important reminders that your body and mind are mobilizing to protect you. Their intensity will subside over the coming days. You will still have plenty of challenges, but the intensity of the confusion and fear will lessen naturally.

Slow down. Fight the urge to make major decisions right away, taking a few days or a week to do some research and get a second opinion can make all the difference in finding the best doctors and treatment for yourself.

Seek comforts, new and old. Making healthy lifestyle changes and exploring new modes of self-care can provide crucial comfort and support. But don't abandon all your old routines either. If nature walks have always buoyed your spirits, walk. If you like to get lost in a book, read. If praying helps, pray. 

Choose whom to tell. Support from friends is absolutely essential, You get to decide with whom to share your news. A family member or friend who is going to cry every time he or she talks to you is not going to be helpful.

Use the Web wisely. It's important to remember how wildly inaccurate online information can be and to be conservative in your searches, especially at the beginning, as indiscriminate web surfing can increase fears more than help you. Talking with trusted health professionals and friends may be more helpful.

Write things down. If you are worried write down your thoughts. Journaling can be therapeutic as you process the news.  People think of many things when they get bad news. Writing things down as they come into your mind, helps you gain some control.

Don’t feel guilty about calling your boss or manager to share what is going on. You might want to take a few days off and give yourself time to process the information. 

Getting bad news is difficult.  It is hard for the person who receives the news as well as family members. Keep in mind that each person deals with bad news in their own way. It is my hope that these strategies will help you and your family cope if you are given bad news one day. 

I wrote a post in Nurse Advocate; titled; Life Changes on a Dime after I received the news that I had a Central Nervous Brain Tumor. If you missed the original post, take a minute to read it here.

If you have strategies that have helped you cope, please feel free to share.

Thank you for reading Nurse Advocate!


Saturday, February 4, 2017

Taking Charge of Your Health and Wellbeing







Like many, I took my health for granted. I was lucky to live for 60 years with no major healthcare issues. But my luck ran out on November 24, 2014, when I was diagnosed with a central nervous system brain tumor that turned my life upside down. If you have been reading Nurse Advocate you know the story.

Today, although tumor free, I am still processing my journey. I am a high risk for a reoccurrence of the tumor and continue to have complications as a result of the treatment that has impacted my activities of daily living. As a result, I continuously ask myself; what did I do to cause this? What can I do to prevent the tumor from reoccurring?

I realize I am not alone. Research shows that nearly half (45 percent) of all Americans suffer from at least one chronic disease. In addition, it is known that two-thirds of all deaths are caused by one or more of five chronic diseases: heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and diabetes.

As a patient with a chronic disease (cancer), I know it is up to me to be the one to do what I can do to prevent a reoccurrence and to avoid other chronic diseases. So I am on a mission to learn what I can do to improve my health and wellbeing. Is it too late? NO, it is never too late to take steps to improve your health and wellbeing.  

So I ask you: what are you doing to evaluate your health and wellbeing? Please take a minute to share how you have changed your lifestyle to better take care of your health and healthcare. Make a comment in the space below or email me at allewellyn48@gmail.com. I would love to hear from you.

Here are some things that I am doing to improve my health and wellbeing.

Sign up with a Primary Care Doctor: I signed on with a primary care doctor that is connected with the Sylvester Cancer Center to try to streamline my care and records in one place. I see her for my annual checkup, if I am sick or if I have a question for her. I have access to a patient portal that allows me to send my primary a question. She can answer me or ask me to come to the office if she feels she has to see me. This tool helps me to be connected and communicate with my team more effectively. 

Having a primary care doctor is important. But you need to get to know them and make sure they know who you, your goals and what is important to you. Most primary care practices have hundreds of patients, so it is up to you to get to know your doctor and help them get to know you so you get the care that is important to you. 

A primary care doctor will help you maintain your health and also direct care if/when you need advanced care with specialists. To gain insight into how your primary care physician can be the quarterback of your health care team, read this article.

Get Annual Check Up: One of the most important things you can do for yourself is to get an annual checkup and get the required preventative tests and immunizations for your age group. Doing so will identify problems early and improve your chances of a good outcome. Today, many people are living well despite having a chronic condition.
Here is a link to preventative screening for women and for men. Take time to review the recommendations for your age group. Keep track of your results and alert your PCP if you see anything abnormal or see a change from previous tests. 

Keep in mind these charts are guidelines. If you have a history of cancer or other chronic condition, talk to your primary care physician about screening test you should get due to your family history that might be outside of the recommended guideline(s). 

CASE IN POINT: I recently talk to a friend whose daughter was diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer. I asked her how they found cancer and if she had regular mammograms. She said she never had a mammogram as she was only 33, yet her grandmother died of metastatic breast cancer. With this family history, the primary care physician or her OB/GYN physician can write a prescription and ask for the test to be covered. Family history is one of the key indicators that one may come down with the same condition. It is too late now for this young women, but what if she (the mother of two young children) had a mammogram early on and it was able to catch her cancer earlier? Keep in mind that just because you don’t fit into a ‘guideline’, does not mean you do not need the test. It means that the test may not be covered by your insurance, but you can pay privately if you want to have the test. Many organizations that provide mammograms will work with you if the cost is prohibitive, so don’t let money be your deciding factor.  

Keep in mind, you are the only constant on your healthcare team. So it is important to keep copies of your health records as it will help you be aware of the results and any trends that might indicate problems. Being proactive is important.

Get your weight under control. If you are overweight, take steps to get your weight under control.  According to the American Cancer Society, being overweight can be a predisposing factor for cancer and other chronic conditions. Talk to your primary care doctor about your weight and ask for a plan to get your weight under control.

Evaluate your diet: Eating well is an important part of improving your health and reducing your risk of cancer and other chronic conditions. Take a good hard look at what you typically eat each day and see if you are predisposing yourself to chronic conditions. Minor changes can make a difference.

MOVE: Watching how much you eat will help you control your weight. The other key is to be more physically active. Being active helps reduce your risk of cancer and other conditions by helping with weight control. It can also help improve your hormone levels and the way your immune system works. Today, there are some good tools that will help you eat better, move and change your behaviors so you are reducing your risk factors. One such tool are Wearables. 

Wearables: Wearable technology is helping people change behaviors. Wearables are devices we can wear that can alert to how many steps we take, track what we eat and PUSH us to do more. Today, one in six (15%) consumers in the United States currently uses wearable technology, including smartwatches or fitness bands. While 19 million fitness devices are likely to be sold this year that number is predicted to grow to 110 million in 2018. Wearables are helping people to be better engaged in their health and healthcare. Here is an article on wearable technologies and how they are facilitating behavioral changes to improve one's health.

Remember that your health is not just about the medical conditions that can impact your life, but also includes dental or oral health and mental health. Each is important to your health and wellbeing. Let's look at them both. 

Oral Health: Good oral health can also be the difference between life and death. Your mouth is a hotbed of bacteria, which can be controlled with good oral hygiene. But neglect of your teeth and gums can lead to heart disease and other chronic medical conditions. Make an appointment to see your dentist and hygienist. You may need to go for cleanings if you are found to be at risk for gum disease. You may also be referred to a periodontist who specializes in treating gum disease. Most of us think that as long as we have no pain, our teeth are good. This is not the case as gum disease is a silent disease. Getting annual x rays are the only way to show if you have gum disease. Here is an article that dispels many of the myths that can impact our oral health.

Mental Health: Primary care doctors have known for years that psychological problems, such as depression, anxiety, stress and mental confusion, play a significant role in many diseases and impair recovery if not treated adequately. Psychologists, psychiatrists, and other mental health professionals can contribute to the healing process through evaluations, counseling and sometimes medication to assist in the treatment of these psychological difficulties. With the use of the patient-centered medical home model, the psychological needs of the patient are more readily identified and addressed through better access to the providers and improved communication between the patient and doctors, which allows more prompt treatment of mental illness and related problems. Here is an article that might make this concept clearer.

Today there are a number of resources that can help improve your health and healthcare. I hope this article is a start and motivates you to take care of yourself!


Have a good week!