April 24, 2015
Health Connect has opened an office in uptown Martinsville to serve people who need help with health care.
The storefront, on Church Street, located directly across from the city municipal building at 56 W Church St., does not offer medical care. Rather, it connects people with needs related to their health care with agencies and information so they will be be better-informed and make better decisions about their health.
"The goal is to be a one-stop shop," said Barbara Jackman, executive of the Martinsville-Henry County Coalition for Health and Wellness.
People can find access to health care services; alternatives to barriers such as a lack of transportation to those services, lack of Internet/computers or even a lack of a phone; how to find classes to address health care issues; and support to help them succeed, among other things, Jackman said.
For instance, Health Connect can link women to mammography services through the Ladies First program; help people with diabetes get annual eye exams through the Eyes Forward program; and help people with transportation needs through a partnership with the Southern Area Agency on Aging’s Mobility Management program, she said.
"Computer access is another big" issue for many people, Jackman said. "Almost every medical practice in town that has electronic records has an electronic patient portal" to handle appointments, messages and other services. "But not everyone has access to computers or is fluent in how to use them."
So Health Connect is working to set up computers where patients can access their health care provider and also learn how to navigate the portal themselves, she said.
Another example of an upcoming Health Connect service is having blood pressure cuffs available so people with high blood pressure can monitor their rates as directed by their physician.
"A lot of people can't afford a cuff or know how to use it. Our goal would be to have cuffs available" at Health Connect and be able to assist a patient with sending the data to the patient's physician, with staff available in case the patient has questions, Jackman said.
Health Connect also can help patients find financial and other types of assistance and make sure they are taking full advantage of things such as their insurance programs, she said. It also can help us to identify local health care problems when we hear the same concerns expressed over and over, she added.
The staff provides support for people in their relationship with their primary "medical home" or physicians, Jackman said. That involves the patient being more proactive and participatory in health care decisions, hopefully before a problem arises, she said.
And that is the future of health care, according to Jackman.
"As the health care system moves toward prevention and chronic disease self-management … people become responsible for their health (and) look to their provider as a health care home," she said. "Implicit in self-management is that you know what your targets are and you make decisions based on that. When you're struggling with that," Health Connect can help.
"At the end of the day, we have to change the way we live … eat differently, exercise (and) pay attention to things as we age," Jackman said.
That, she added, is hard, especially when someone lacks transportation or other services, so that is where Health Connect can help.
The office has five full-time employees and plans to add a receptionist. It is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. The phone number is 638-0787.
No appointments are required at the office that serves all Henry County and Martinsville residents, Jackman said. At least half the patients are referred by their health care providers.
Some people can be served quickly, while others need three or four contacts with the staff, Jackman said.
"The goal is to help people help themselves. Sometimes that happens easily; sometimes it does not," she said.
There is no charge for Health Connect services but there may be copays for some programs, such as mammograms and medication assistance, she said.
Health Connect is funded largely through The Harvest Foundation, and Harvest funds also are used to leverage other funding sources "to fill in the gaps," Jackman said.
In addition, the health coalition is working with the Henry County-Martinsville Health Department on a four-year federal Centers for Disease Control grant focusing on reducing rates of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke and other conditions. Five health districts in the state are participating in the grant.
Part of that, Jackman said, is development of a community health worker position. This person would be trained in how to work with people on their needs, finding suitable resources in the community to help and following up with the patient. These would be people who are part of the community they would serve, such as those in particular neighborhoods or who speak other languages, Jackman said.
A community health worker also would have coaching and mentoring skills, she said.?
"Teaching someone to manage their own blood pressure is different than taking someone's blood pressure," she added.
Health care is changing, Jackman said, predicting that it will be totally different in five years.
To deal with that, the coalition is working to "build a system that can grow and change and be available as it changes," she said.
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