Ask the Expert
Brian Harrison, MD
Affinity Occupational Health
Q. How can I encourage employees to take advantage of all that our health plan has to offer?
A. Just like a healthy diet, which provides four servings of fruit, wise corporate wellness programs include four "servings" of LOW HANGING FRUIT. I refer here to four free wellness offerings from your health plan! Get employees to grab these easy-to-reach fruits from your insurer's orchard:
1) Routine immunizations
2) Health and wellness classes
3) Cancer screenings such as Pap smears, PSA, and mammograms
4) Annual preventive physical exams
These juicy morsels hang low on the branch since they usually cost your employees little or nothing. Most require no office co-pay or other out-of-pocket charge. And, your company's premiums do not increase no matter how many people utilize these services.
Insurers place these programs in easy reach because they know it saves them money in the long run. These services bring savings to your company too, both in terms of cost and lost production. For both you and your insurer, higher use of these prevention programs brings greater savings. More IS better!
But, how do you get every employee to take advantage of these freebies? No matter how low healthy fruits hang, certain people refuse to pick what's good for them. Some folks seem like tough nuts to crack!
For them, the last item on that list holds the key to all the rest. Once an employee identifies a provider as their own, and sees them for an annual preventive exam, the other three fruits seem to fall into the basket. For even the toughest nut in your bunch, "Personalized Care," which happens to be Affinity Health System's Brand Promise, builds trust and confidence. Then customized recommendations by that provider will lead your employee to the flu shot or pneumonia vaccination they needed, the tobacco cessation class they required, and the prostate cancer screening they had neglected. All of this, quite possibly, may come at no added cost!
This opens the way to better value even if further spending for health care follows. Research has demonstrated that physician-connected patients comply with care better, adhere to prescriptions more, and enjoy improved outcomes, than patients who lacked assignment to an individual primary physician. That assignment often begins with a no-cost, employer-promoted, annual preventive visit.
Employers will find it "fruitful" to promote annual preventive physicals to their employees. I have tips embedded in previous Occ Doc in a Box blog postings and Health e-News, which may help guide you.
March 2011: Which Cancer Screenings When?
Health e-News July 2011: How can we make health and wellness more appealing to men?
Yearly aggregate health risk appraisal reports will show you the fruits of that labor. HRA show how well your group complies with preventive recommendations. Watch compliance with all types of health promotion activities grow as you cultivate the "yearly physical" routine.
Teach employees these steps:
1. Encourage each employee to select a primary provider. Affinity NurseDirect (1-800-362-9900) makes this easy.
2. Follow that with education about the preventive physical process. Employees must understand that if they have physical complaints needing evaluation, or want prescriptions refilled, they should schedule separate visits for those problems. If instead they have the provider attend to these issues during the preventive physical, this will probably force the provider to assign a charge. Help employees understand these visits should have a purely preventive agenda, in order to avoid out-of-pocket fees.
3. Tell them to allow a long "lead time" when they schedule their visit. They need to ensure the scheduler knows they want "an annual preventive physical," not an appointment for an illness, and need to name their insurer.
4. They must check the written description themselves in which the insurer explains this benefit.
Write these steps in a checklist, using the language of your own health plan's benefits book. Encourage employees to complete these steps, sign the checklist, and then use it to enter a drawing. You pick the prizes.
I recommend baskets of low-hanging fruit!
Introducing Affinity's new magazine, @Affinity, an inspirational resource for relevant news in health care. The inaugural summer edition features an article on genetic counseling, an important consideration related to cancer care and other concerns. Click here to explore this article in @Affinity!
Workplace Wellness Tip
Want to make the most of your lunch break? Try these super foods that pack a powerful supply of nutrients.
Low-fat plain yogurt
High in calcium, protein and potassium, plain yogurt -sweetened with fresh fruit - is a mighty snack.
This little fruit is dense with antioxidants, Vitamin C, and fiber, among other good stuff.
Toss a hard-boiled egg in your lunch sack for a great source of protein and 12 vitamins and minerals, including choline, which is good for memory and brain development.
Now available at most grocery stores, quinoa is an ancient grain high in fiber, protein, and iron. With a texture somewhere between rice and pasta, this super food is perfect for mixing with vegetables or black beans.
Satisfy your sweet tooth with a handful of blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, which are loaded with antioxidants, phytonutrients and fiber - for a fraction of the calories you'll find in other sweets.
A spin-off of LiveLEAN
Introducing LiveLEAN Lite, a 12-week work site campaign that focuses on nutrition, physical activity, and stress management. The intervention is built on educational modules and worksite challenges to motivate behavior change. This ready-to-go cultural campaign allows you to offer effective, low-cost programming at your work site.
Contact Riley McDermid or Holly Tomlin for more information at 1-800-541-0351.
Bring a presenter on site!
Looking for an effective way to promote health and wellness at your workplace? Consider bringing a speaker on site! Affinity Occupational Health offers a Speakers Bureau to help educate your employees on a variety of topics. We've compiled a database of experts within Affinity Health System and the community that are available to speak at your workplace in the Fox Valley, Oshkosh and surrounding areas.
Typical presentations are from 30 minutes to one hour and can be held during a lunch break or anytime convenient during the day. Topics include, but are not limited to: nutrition, exercise, stress, men's and women's health, cholesterol, allergies, ergonomics, diabetes and more. If you have a specific topic of interest, contact Affinity and we will work with you to find a related presenter.
Please keep in mind that many of our presenters require at least a two-week notice in their calendars. For more information about our Speakers Bureau, please contact Tammy Davis at (920) 628-1532 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
This month, we're focusing on an important health topic in every community: cancer care. Whether you've faced a personal battle with cancer or know someone who has, cancer is making an impact in the workplace as well as at home.
How do we react when a co-worker is diagnosed with cancer? What can we do to lower our risks? These answers and more are found in the articles below.
Please share this edition of Health e-News with your employees. A version designed just for them can be found at: http://conta.cc/pSBgAC
In good health,
Director, Employer Solutions and Urgent Care
Lifestyle Tips for Preventing Cancer
Did you know? Two-thirds of cancer deaths are preventable. One-third are attributed to smoking, and one-third to poor nutrition, lack of exercise and obesity, says Jennifer Norden, MD, medical director of Integrative Medicine for Affinity Health System. The good news: you can lower your risk of cancer by making healthy choices.
"Living a healthy lifestyle by not smoking, getting daily physical activity, eating fruits and vegetables, and maintaining a healthy weight can definitely help prevent cancer as well as other chronic medical problems such as diabetes and heart disease," Dr. Norden says.
In addition to proper nutrition and exercise, here are a few key tips to managing a healthy outlook.
"It's important to emphasize that vitamins should be obtained through food," says Dr. Norden. Supplements and vitamin pills have not shown the same benefit as a diet rich in multi-colored fruits and vegetables.
For example, beta-carotene, a form of vitamin A, was studied in smokers to see if it prevented lung cancer. Instead, it actually increased the number of lung cancer cases compared to the placebo pills. However, people who eat a plant-based diet rich in beta-carotene tend to have a lower risk of cancer.
"When isolated vitamins are given, they don't have the same benefits as the whole food, which has numerous vitamins plus fiber," Dr. Norden explains. "So save money on vitamins and spend it on good quality fruits and vegetables."
Although stress management is not proven to prevent cancer, it is important for overall health. Finding time for meditation, breathing exercises, prayer, yoga or other mind-body practices can be difficult, but definitely has health benefits. "For people who have cancer, or are cancer survivors, mind-body practice like yoga and meditation can help with sleep, fatigue, stress levels, and overall well-being," Dr. Norden says.
Some studies suggest environmental toxins and chemicals may influence cancer risk. "I think it's important to minimize exposure," Dr. Norden advises. Try choosing organic meat and produce when possible, and always adhere to your company's hazardous materials safety procedures.
By John Fuller, Manager, Affinity Health System Cancer Centers
Learning that you have cancer is a difficult experience. After the diagnosis, you may feel anxious, afraid or overwhelmed and wonder how you can cope during the days to come. Here are some suggestions for coping with a cancer diagnosis.
Try to obtain as much basic, useful information as possible about the cancer diagnosis. Consider bringing a family member or friend with you to the first few doctor appointments. Write down questions and concerns beforehand and bring them with you.
- What kind of cancer do I have?
- Where is the cancer?
- Has it spread?
- Can my cancer be treated?
- What is the chance that my cancer can be cured?
- What are my treatment options?
- How will the treatment benefit me?
- What can I expect during treatment?
- What are the side effects of the treatment?
- When should I call the doctor?
- What can I do to prevent my cancer from recurring?
- How likely are my children or other family members to get cancer?
Maintain honest, two-way communication with loved ones, doctors and others after your cancer diagnosis. You may feel particularly isolated if people try to protect you from bad news or if you try to put up a strong front. If you and others express your emotions honestly, you can all gain strength from each other.
Prepare for Change
Be ready for physical changes. Now - after the cancer diagnosis and before you begin treatment - is the best time to plan for changes. Prepare yourself now so that you'll be better able to cope later. Ask your doctor what changes you should anticipate. If drugs cause hair loss, advice from image experts about clothing, makeup, wigs and hairpieces may help you feel more comfortable and attractive. Insurance coverage often helps pay for wigs, prostheses and other adaptive devices. Members of cancer support groups may be particularly helpful in this area and can provide tips that have helped them and others.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is particularly important. This can improve your energy level. Eating a healthy diet consisting of a variety of foods and getting adequate rest may help you combat the stress and fatigue of the cancer and its treatment. Exercise and participating in enjoyable activities also may help. Recent data suggest that people who maintain some physical exercise during treatment not only cope better, but may also live longer.
Friends and family are so important. Often friends and family can run errands, provide transportation, prepare meals and help you with household chores. Learn to accept their help. Accepting help gives those who care about you a sense of making a contribution at a difficult time. Also encourage your family to accept help if it's needed. A cancer diagnosis affects the entire family and adds stress, especially to the primary caregivers. Accepting help with meals or chores from neighbors or friends can go a long way in preventing caregiver burnout.
Keep a Positive Perspective
Remember that a cancer diagnosis does not mean a death sentence. It does mean that you have a serious illness and need immediate attention. It also means that you must act quickly yet carefully to promote a more positive outcome.
Cancer was once thought of as an acute disease, but now with millions of survivors it is looked at as a chronic disease. Many cancers for which there was only a single therapy available just a few years ago now have second-line or even third-line therapies available today. Thus, patients are living longer by using one therapy until its effectiveness wanes, then moving to the next option. The longer a patient lives, the greater the chances are that another effective therapy will be approved, a promising clinical trial will become available, or - perhaps - a cure will be found.
The Affinity Cancer Center Team is a multidisciplinary group of caring individuals dedicated to bringing personalized care to you. We want you to become a member of the increasing number of survivors that are enjoying life.
For tips for coping from Affinity patients who have been through the rollercoaster of cancer treatment, click here.
Affinity Cancer Centers are the only cancer care facilities in the area with both ACR and ACoS accreditation. For more information, call (920) 738-2184 in Appleton or (920) 236-1600 in Oshkosh.
|What's Happening at Affinity?
Breast Center Virtual Tour
Welcome to the new St. Elizabeth Hospital Breast Center! Affinity Health System built the new center to meet the needs and wishes of woman in our area. This new space, now conveniently located on the first floor of the hospital, gives women an updated and attractive setting dedicated solely to breast health and early detection.
To learn more about our new St. Elizabeth Hospital Breast Center, take the audio-guided, interactive virtual tour by clicking here
. Or to schedule your mammogram at the St. Elizabeth Hospital Breast Center, call (920) 831-1200.
Supporting a Coworker Experiencing Cancer
Advice from the Affinity EAP counseling team
If you or someone at your workplace is experiencing cancer, you are not alone. Research tells us that 80 percent of people with cancer return to work after diagnosis. But it can seem overwhelming to juggle treatment schedules amidst family and professional responsibilities.
It is important to realize that not knowing what to say to a person with cancer is quite normal. When dealing with a coworker's battle with cancer, you may experience the following emotions:
These feelings are not unique to you, and are similar to the emotions of a person with cancer. The most important thing you can do for yourself and your coworker is to communicate. If you feel that a coworker's battle with cancer is too overwhelming for you, speak to a social worker or a counselor on the job, or visit a local support group.
When an employee or colleague announces that they have a life threatening diagnosis, we often don't know how to respond. Below are some tips from The Wellness Community
that might help:
- Treat your employee or colleague the same way you've always treated them. They are still the same person. Now, they're just dealing with cancer.
- Say something. Express sadness or concern, or even that you don't know what to say in these circumstances, but let them know you are thinking of them. Cards are often appreciated.
- Remember that expressions of extreme concern aren't necessarily helpful. Often, people with cancer end up having to comfort and reassure everyone else and do not get the support they need.
- Avoid discussing a friend or relative who died, or had a horrible cancer treatment experience. Likewise, avoid saying that it will be OK if they just stay positive. It's not necessarily true, and it may add pressure rather than reassurance.
- Don't just ask what you can do to help. Instead, offer to do something specific for them. Offers that generally meet with appreciation are to bring food, help with childcare or errands, rides to appointments, help with housework, or sending out an informational e-mail so that they don't have to describe what is going on over and over again.
On the Job
Even though you may work with someone who has cancer, the nature of your involvement will vary. At work, you meet all different kinds of people and form different relationships. Some people become friends in every sense of the word; others are friendly coworkers; and still others are people with whom you share the work experience but with whom you don't particularly have a strong personal bond. It's important to recognize these differences to understand how you might relate to your ill coworker.
What to Do
Although you may feel compassion and concern for any and all people suffering with the disease, you don't need to step up in every situation. In fact, if you're not particularly friendly with someone and the person becomes ill and suddenly you're offering to help with everything, it could come across as disingenuous. This isn't to say you shouldn't offer assistance, if it is sincere. However, you should do what feels comfortable - comfortable to you and to the other person.
If the person is a true friend, she or he obviously deserves whatever support you can offer. This might be something as simple as listening. Or, it might be more specific assistance, such as a ride to doctors' appointments, running errands, and/or occasional child care.
It's likely your friend will be reluctant to ask for help, and this is where you should take the initiative. For some people, this sort of conversation comes easy; for others it's very difficult.
Where do you start?
By saying what you offer. "I want you to know I'm here for you. If you want to talk, any time, I'm here to listen."
If you're also available to provide additional assistance, let your friend know. "If you need a ride to the doctor's or someone to run errands, feel free to call me."
Make sure you are able to follow through before you offer, though. If you are the single mother of three young children, for example, you may not be in a position to provide this kind of support.
Friends and Others
If your ill coworker isn't exactly a friend but rather an acquaintance with whom you're friendly, you may want to offer the same kind of support. In this situation, however, you may want to reach out in the context of work, particularly if you see your coworker struggling to keep up because of missed days or lack of energy.
What do you say?
Try to be specific. "If you need help with the XYZ project, let me know" tells your coworker what you can do, as opposed to "Let me know if I can do anything to help you." This same approach might be appropriate if the person isn't someone with whom you're friendly, but merely someone at work. Again, though, you must do what feels right, and sincere.
What happens if it doesn't feel right, especially if the person isn't a friend, and you still have a sense you want to do something?
If you share the same boss, you might want to have a conversation with him or her. Something along the lines of, "I know Susan has a lot to deal with right now and if there's anything I can do to lighten her load, please let me know."
If you've talked with your friends at work and they're willing to help, let them know you're making this offer. They may ask that you speak for the group.
Remember, the goal is to provide support, but to do so in a way that feels right for your coworker who has cancer, and in a way that feels right for you.
|Get to Know Our Providers |Ben Heinzen, MD
Affinity Medical Home
1855 S. Koeller St., Oshkosh
Dr. Ben Heinzen, an internal medicine
physician for Affinity Medical Group, doesn't just treat his patients; he equips them. Arming each patient with the skills to lead a healthy and active life is an important part of his job. He provides personalized care to adults of all ages, with a special interest in preventive medicine.
When he's not at work, Dr. Heinzen enjoys camping, road biking and downhill skiing.
To learn more about Dr. Heinzen or to schedule an appointment, call (920) 223-7100.Kelly Krueger, MD
Affinity Medical Home
2725 Jackson St., Oshkosh
As a Family Medicine physician for Affinity Medical Group, Dr. Kelly Krueger makes a point of listening first. She gets to know her patients of all ages, understanding their concerns, and she works with them to create a personalized care plan for maintaining a healthy lifestyle. She has a special interest in preventive medicine.
Outside of the office, Dr. Krueger enjoys traveling, reading fiction and spending time with her family.
To learn more about Dr. Krueger or to schedule an appointment, call (920) 223-7500.