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Filling the Gaps to Care

Filling the Gaps to Care

(Blog post adapted from HealthLINK—September 2018)

Care Gaps, a patient-focused initiative offered at Page Memorial Hospital, is a pilot program aimed at arranging vital screening tests and other needed services for patients. Offered at four family-medicine practices affiliated with Page Memorial Hospital, mammograms, DEXA bone density scans and colon cancer tests are just a few of the preventive screenings arranged through the program, according to nurse Tina C. Switzer, MSN, CNL.

Nurse Tina Switzer, MSN, CNL, conducted research on the impact of the Care Gaps program on patients; in the photo above, she presents her findings at Valley Health’s Showcase for Sharing, an interdisciplinary event focused on research conducted by Valley Health staff.

“In the first months of the program, we scheduled 80 people who needed screenings,” Switzer says. “60 came in for the free review, and others were counseled during a phone appointment. We arranged 52 mammograms and 50 bone density tests as well as colon cancer screening for these patients. We also offer other needed preventive care, such as vaccines for the flu, pneumonia and tetanus, and when appropriate, we help women schedule a PAP smear.”

Care Gaps visits are available at no charge.“You are getting a free, half-hour visit with a nurse that’s focused on your health,” Switzer says.“We end up helping with all sorts of health needs, from weight loss to quitting smoking to fitting in exercise—whatever is important to our patients. One time we put in an order for a wheeled cart for a patient with COPD who loves to walk, so she can get outdoors with her oxygen canister. When people leave these visits, they’re thrilled.”

More care options will be available in Page County in 2019, thanks to a new partnership between Page Memorial Hospital clinics and James Madison University School of Nursing. A grant of $2.7 million was made to the School of Nursing for the newly established UPCARE (Undergraduate Primary Care and Rural Education) Project. The project, which will focus on training nurses to work in primary care in rural areas, will ensure the availability of resources for more Care Gaps visits, as well as for chronic disease management, pediatric risk assessment, and mental health treatment, notes Switzer, who works as UPCARE Partnership Liaison with the JMU School of Nursing.

“Helping those with chronic diseases is a high priority for Valley Health,” explains David Switzer, MD, medical director, Primary Care, Valley Partners. “Based on the data our team gathers from patients at all Valley Health hospitals, practices and care centers, we estimate that only 42 percent of patients with diabetes and 68 percent with hypertension have had all the appropriate and recommended interventions, such as tests and laboratory screenings for complications. Care gap management, along with Valley Health’s nurse navigator programs and MD Revolution, a telephonic/electronic chronic care management service used by some local physician practices, can dramatically improve patients’ quality of life…and keep them out of the hospital. If you or a family member has one or more chronic medical conditions, I strongly encourage you to ask your care provider if you might benefit from one of Valley Health’s chronic care management programs.”

For more information on Care Gaps or one of Valley Health’s other programs in preventive health and/or chronic disease management, visit valleyhealthlink.com/chronicdisease for more information.