Health Matters: Manage Your Chronic Condition

Not everyone is in tiptop shape. Many people suffer from things like asthma, diabetes, COPD and heart issues.CaregiverExercise

Does that mean you can’t live an active and fulfilling life? Absolutely not. But it does mean that a certain amount of management and planning needs to occur.

Like many health insurance companies, Avera Health Plans offers care and disease management services to patients as a free benefit. This is the time of year you need to be thinking about your insurance, and benefits like these are important considerations when choosing a plan.

Connect the Dots

You may be thinking, if I have a doctor why do I need to connect with yet another person? Well, these patient advocates provide an array of services that can be helpful to members who don’t have an established primary care physician — and not everyone does.

But it can be helpful to anyone because a care manager can help you connect the dots and stay on track. Our care and disease managers collaborate with your primary care provider to ensure he or she has the full story of things that occur between checkups. Successfully managing a chronic condition can cut down on long-term complications, which can improve your quality of life and save you money so you can enjoy it.

Services include:

• Assistance finding preventive services and community and wellness resources

• Collaboration with your primary care provider

• Help setting up appointments and managing prescriptions

• Creating care plans to successfully manage a chronic condition

• Help managing multiple chronic conditions

A Guide for Multiple Conditions

So what does that all mean? Coordinated care is a big buzzword in health care but what it comes down to is making sure that the patient’s needs are met on all levels. Managed care programs focus on the patient beyond necessary tests and screenings, and look at the big picture of your overall well-being. They can help make things a little less overwhelming if you’re managing multiple conditions or medications.

Care managers also are available via email and phone to answer everyday questions that might not warrant a doctor visit but may be just as important to your overall health.

For a person with asthma, that might be education about the importance of always taking preventive medications and carrying a rescue inhaler at all times — and creating a plan so you don’t forget it. Maybe you’re diabetic and are having problems saying “no” to all the Christmas goodies at work. Your disease manager can sit down and discuss ways of doing that based on your lifestyle to create a more likely plan for success.

Those small successes can make a difference over time for patients and even health systems. For example, through patient-centered programs, the U.S. Air Force decreased emergency room and urgent care visits by 14 percent, according to the Patient-Centered Primary Care Collaborative. Hill Air Force Base in Utah saved $300,000 annually through improved diabetes care management while 77 percent of diabetic patients improved their blood sugar control.

If you’re not insured or you are looking to change plans, now is the time to shop. To have health insurance in place Jan. 1, you must apply by Dec. 15. Open enrollment ends Jan. 31 for health insurance coverage in 2016.  As you’re comparing plans and costs, think of benefits like these that can have long-term savings and just make life better.

By Dr. Preston Renshaw

Chief Medical Officer at Avera Health Plans

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