Know Yuma Spotlights YRMC Healthy Living Push

2013-08-15 17:52:14

With the inflation of health care costs and a rise in the mortality rate in the U.S. happening simultaneously over the past few decades, Pat Walz, CEO of Yuma Regional Medical Center, said the hospital has decided to do something to change that reality at the local level.

At Know Yuma Inside and Out on Thursday, Walz said that more than half of Americans are living with one or more serious chronic diseases, a majority of which can be prevented. He added that 75 percent of health care costs are due to chronic conditions like congestive heart failure, diabetes and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.

“We can continue on the current path, resigning millions of Americans to health problems that could be avoided,” he said, “or we can invest in giving Americans the opportunity to be healthier while saving billions in health care costs. I think we owe our kids at least that much to start thinking about that.”

Through a number of mediums, Walz said, YRMC has begun tackling this problem head on, in part by adding two new goals to their strategic plan.

The addition of “population wellness,” focusing on what’s best for the community, has been addressed in recent years by initiatives such as Healthy Yuma, POWer PLAY’te and the Y.O.U.T.H. Walk for Wellness: Mileage Club program.

“Community healthcare” is also a goal, to do what’s needed to keep the community well, he said. One way they plan on doing this is through a transitional health care program.

The program will provide home monitoring mechanism for patients, said Shawn Strandberg, administrator of YRMC community programs.

Strandberg said that YRMC has recently shifted their focus to an emphasis on health promotion, continuity of care, improved communication through information technology, intervention at treatable stages and reducing the burden of chronic disease.

YRMC also has worked to make significant changes for employees through their wellness program.

Since the roll out of the program in May, while they have not had enough time to see the benefits of decreased medical spending just yet, YRMC is seeing a positive change in healthy behaviors in their employees, said Nicole Dallam, YRMC wellness coordinator.

Dallam encouraged businesses to take a look at integrating wellness programs in their workplaces, tailored to their employees’ specific health needs. Activities and interventions YRMC has implemented include working with the community, emotional health, fitness, nutrition, outlook and stress management.

The YRMC Wellness Program is open to all hospital employees and in many cases their family members as well.

In addition to biometric screening and health risk assessments being tied to their insurance premium, other wellness opportunities provided include awareness and education events, lifestyle change programs, an online health activity system, interactive challenges, newsletters and weekly tips, sports and recreation, and wellness assessments and coaching.

During the employee health fairs in May, YRMC had 485 participants and performed over 1,200 health risk assessments.

In June, the hospital also had a Step By Step Team Challenge with pedometers for employees that had 661 participants, 75 percent of whom met their goal of walking 10,000 steps a day, which translates to about four to five miles. A total of 68,888 miles were walked by employees, which is equivalent to traveling around the world three times a day, Dallam said.

Employee surveys in March and July indicated that cultural changes and shifts were in fact taking place at YRMC.

Opinions from employees showed their readiness to change their lifestyle rose from 65 percent to 85 percent, healthy physical activity level from 16.9 percent to 25.2 percent, healthy dietary habits from 32.2 percent to 34.6 percent, stress management from 13.1 percent to 21.3 percent, leaderships value of wellness from 23 percent to 41.7 percent and the culture of wellness at YRMC from 7 percent to 35.9 percent.

The next phase of their wellness program will be integration and sustainment, which will continue to change the culture of wellness at YRMC and in the community with monthly and quarterly activities and by expanding their wellness rewards program to be tied more to healthy behaviors.

“We want healthy to be the way we do things at YRMC,” Dallam said. “We also want to build a climate to help share wellness with the community.”

Dallam concluded that about $30,000 has been spent on the YRMC Wellness Program thus far, with the majority of the funds paying for equipment for wellness assessments and coaching.
She added, however, that the cost is minimal for YRMC, which has over 2,200 employees.

“Keep in mind it can be done relatively inexpensively for a small business,” added Walz.