Physician works to provide wellness care to the whole family
As a full-service family practice with a thriving obstetrics focus, Integrity Family Physicians (a part of St. Mary’s Medical Group in Evansville, Ind.) prides itself on caring for the whole family. Even so, its physicians know that some people are harder to reach than others when it comes to preventive care, says Dr. William Blanke.
“We deliver babies, and we take care of the babies in our office, so we do a lot of ‘well woman’ and ‘well child’ care,” Dr. Blanke says. “But a forgotten segment of the population is young adult males, because they don’t feel like they need to come in. Women and children come in for post-natal care, immunizations and other issues, but the single men and the fathers … not so much. So when they do come in with the mothers or the babies, we really try to get them to come in for their own appointments so that we can provide better care for the whole family.”
He often uses a car-maintenance analogy, pointing out that a driver shouldn’t wait until the engine light comes on to get the oil and filter changed, or provide other routine maintenance.
“Even if it runs fine, it may not be running at peak performance,” Dr. Blanke says. “If you’re good about taking care of the car, why not be just as good about your body? Get the basic tests — blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose — and do a family history. If it’s all great, we’ll do the human version of the 3,000-mile oil change, which is stopping by for 15 minutes once a year so we can touch base, do some quick tests, check immunizations and just see what’s going on.”
Advocating an incremental approach to lifestyle changes
During those visits with men, as well as with all his adult patients, Dr. Blanke tries to assess what lifestyle changes might be needed to improve overall health. Some people may be very gung-ho about diet and exercise, but Dr. Blanke says that’s because they’ve watched shows like The Biggest Loser and don’t really know what that entails.
“I want to find out why they want to make that change, other than seeing remarkable results in someone else,” Dr. Blanke explains. “It can’t just be me that thinks they should improve their numbers; they have to own it themselves. If we can assess what the motivator is, such as wanting to be around for their kids and grandkids, then we have a starting point. In other cases, there’s an insurance program offering points in a competition for weight loss or other wellness targets. Maybe they have an office competition or a bet with a buddy. We find the draw, and then I let them come up with an idea of what they want to do.”
He also advocates a more hands-off approach at this point, because he doesn’t want to be the weight-loss ‘hall monitor,’ for example.
“I can endorse the plan, I can monitor changes, but I’m not going to tell them how to exercise and lose weight,” he says. “The person has to invest in that plan, and then act on it, themselves.”
He says he believes many of these individuals will tap into the expertise and support offered by a MissionPoint Health Partner. They can work with people outside the doctor’s office and help them with coaching and other motivators. And as the practice turns its focus toward body mass index, or BMI, rates for patients, there are likely to be plenty of people looking for help.
“We are addressing BMI once a year with every patient,” Dr. Blanke says. “That pushes us to have that conversation, and get patients talking about diet and exercise. It has already led to some interesting discussions, and I expect to have many more.”
In addition to that kind of lifestyle support, Dr. Blanke says he also plans to tap into Health Partners’ expertise for everything from wellness coaching to reducing hospital readmissions.
“Anything we can do to keep people from going back to the hospital is crucial,” he says. “It has been very helpful to meet with patients after a hospital admission, to review any medication changes, to answer any questions they have about a new diagnosis.”
Because his practice has a long-term relationship with the patient, he and his fellow physicians are often in a better position to help with long-term compliance, he explains. Plus, he adds, “I know Mission Point is out there also following that patient, and helping them to make follow-up appointments with another doctor, or with us, and also helping them with medication and other needs, it’s very beneficial.”
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