Health briefs for Nov. 23, 2013: November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Nearly 26 million children and adults in the United States have diabetes. Another 79 million Americans have pre-diabetes and are at risk for developing Type 2 diabetes. According to the web site for The Memorial Hospital, recent estimates project that as many as one in three American adults will have diabetes in 2050 unless people take steps to stop it.

According to the American Diabetes Association, early detection and treatment of diabetes can decrease the risk of developing the complications of diabetes, though some people with Type 2 diabetes have symptoms so mild that they go unnoticed.

Common symptoms of diabetes include frequent urination, extreme thirst or hunger, extreme fatigue, blurry vision or cuts and bruises that are slow to heal. Weight loss with increased food intake can be indicative of Type 1 diabetes, while tingling, pain, or numbness in the hands and feet can mean Type 2.

Learn about how diabetes is diagnosed or take a risk test to find out if you are at increased risk for having Type 2 diabetes. The American Diabetes Assocation offers a free risk assessment at diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/prevention/diabetes-risk-test/.

Meeker health care facility honored for excellence

Pioneers Medical Center, in Meeker, is proud to announce that its emergency department has been named a 2013 Guardian of Excellence Award winner by Press Ganey Associates, Inc. The Guardian of Excellence Award recognizes top-performing facilities that consistently achieve the 95th percentile of performance in patient satisfaction.

In 2010, Pioneers Medical Center partnered with Press Ganey to gain feedback from PMC patients and learn how PMC could improve the patient experience through all aspects of the organization.

“This is a wonderful honor that our staff has received," said Drew Varland, PMC Chief Nursing Officer. “We have been able to use the feedback from our patients to make improvements. The PMC staff is committed to giving the best care possible and honored to serve our community.”

The Press Ganey Guardian of Excellence Award is a health care industry symbol of achievement. According to a press release, fewer than five percent of all Press Ganey clients reach this threshold and consistently maintain it for the one-year reporting period. The Guardian of Excellence Award represents outstanding patient satisfaction scores. PMC Emergency Department patients receive surveys from Press Ganey and are asked to rate their experience on 31 patient satisfaction measures.

The PMC Emergency Department is ranked in the top 4 percent in patient satisfaction against all Press Ganey Hospitals. Press Ganey partners with more than 10,000 health care facilities, including more than half of all U.S. hospitals.

“The PMC staff is a great team that is committed to the patient,” said Ken Harman, PMC’s CEO. “Great patient care has to happen when any staff member interacts with a patient from the time they walk in our door, through their stay, and even all the way through the billing process. Each department has been working on continuous improvement. Congratulations, team.”

Whooping cough vaccinations recommended

Responding to a recent surge in cases of whooping cough or pertussis, Coloradans are urged to make sure they are up to date on vaccinations. Colorado has seen epidemic levels of pertussis during the past two years. One hundred new cases of pertussis were reported in the second half of October.

The Tdap vaccine is recommended for:

• Children 7 to 10 years old who are not fully immunized with the childhood DTaP vaccine series

• Adolescents 11 to 12 years old

• Adults who never have received a Tdap vaccine

• Pregnant women at 27 through 36 weeks of pregnancy

• Parents/caregivers of infants younger than 12 months of age, including grandparents, baby-sitters and childcare workers

• Health care workers

• Others who plan on having close contact with an infant

For more information about where to obtain a vaccination, call 970-871-7624.

Volunteers needed for hospice

Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association is seeking volunteers for their Hospice program. Direct service volunteers may provide transportation, run errands, provide respite to relieve the primary caregiver, do household chores, read to the patient or sit and listen to them. Volunteers also assist in bereavement, community outreach and fund development. Volunteers who work with patients must complete a 20-hour training program and make a commitment to be available for at least 1 year.

Those who are interested should call Sandy Beran at 970-871-7682 in Craig or Katy Thiel in Steamboat at 970-871-7628.

Medicare patients can alter plans through Dec. 7

Open enrollment for Medicare Part D prescription plans and Medicare Advantage health plans is underway and continues until Dec. 7. Current Medicare beneficiaries interested in changing to a different plan must make a decision by Dec. 7.

New plans become effective Jan. 1, 2014.

“This is a critical time for consumers on Medicare to review their coverage and make sure it meets their needs,” said Marguerite Salazar, Colorado Commissioner of Insurance, in a press release from the Colorado Division of Insurance.

People should evaluate their Medicare plan each year and because plan prices, benefits and networks change, even people who are happy with their current plan should use this time to review their coverage. The Plan Finder tool at www.medicare.gov can be very helpful in comparing one plan to another.

Colorado consumers can call their local State Health Insurance Assistance Program at 1-888-696-7213 for help. SHIP is housed in the Colorado Division of Insurance and provides personal assistance to anyone in Colorado.

Consumers can also call Medicare directly at 1-800-633-4227.

“SHIP is a key component to our mission of consumer protection,” Salazar said. “The counselors’ expertise is a great consumer resource. It’s free, unbiased and no one is trying to sell you anything.”

Unfortunately, open enrollment also brings the risk of unscrupulous sales activities. Here are a few key facts to remember as Medicare beneficiaries review their plans.

• Legitimate insurance carriers do not sell Medicare plans door-to-door.

• Contacting you by phone is inappropriate unless you requested it or you already are the carrier’s customer.

• Insurance carriers should not start selling one product, and then switch to another, unless you requested this sales approach in writing.

• If an event is advertised as “educational,” no sales pitch should be made at the event.

For more information on SHIP, visit dora.colorado.gov/SHIP or call 1-888-696-7213.

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