How your health is like a wagon wheel

The way we get health care is changing. And it’s all about providers being coaches to help us help ourselves.

Norton Hospital employee Jeannie Cox is a champion for her patients. Just like a good coach, she helps them help themselves. But Cox is not a doctor or nurse. She’s a nationally certified counselor who works in the care management department. She meets with patients to determine what type of ongoing care or services they will need once they leave the hospital.

It’s part of a movement called “population health.” While that sounds like complicated medical jargon, to Cox it’s very simple — and personal.

As an example, in early 2015, a man had made 57 emergency room visits in a three-month period. Cox wanted to know why. She discovered the man was homeless, dependent on alcohol and had mental health conditions. She reached out to area social service agencies to help the man find housing and helped him connect with his own medical providers.

The man is now doing much better. Between April 2015 and February 2016, he had only 10 emergency room visits, most for a seizure disorder.

“We’re looking at the total person to find out what their needs are,” she said. “What can we do to help them help themselves? They deserve to have a primary care doctor, a provider who will treat the whole person, not just a single illness.”

You’ll likely hear more about population health as this new way of providing health care becomes more mainstream. It’s a welcome change that will help ensure we receive focused care for illnesses so that we can improve our overall health and prevent health setbacks.

“I like to tell patients, ‘Your health care is like a wagon wheel, and you and your physician are the hub, and your specialists are the spokes and they lead back to you,’” Cox said. “My work is aimed at helping the patient become healthier. As long as a patient gets what they need, that’s what it’s all about.”

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