St. James Hospital’s no-cost wellness visits for medicare patients showing results

Published 12:14 am Wednesday, April 11, 2018

LUTCHER — In a few short months, care coordinators at St. James Parish Hospital have helped diagnose colon cancer, breast cancer, Leukemia, dementia and more through no-cost annual wellness visits.

Open to traditional Medicare patients of Lutcher Family Clinic, Poche Medical Clinic and St. James West Bank Clinic, annual wellness visits offer patients a cost-free, ongoing relationship with a licensed nurse trained to notice changes in health over time.

Working closely with physicians, the care coordinator reviews possible medical risks based on a patient’s health history and suggests no-cost screenings and educational resources to promote early detection.

Care coordinator Nili Rougee has experience in home health, and she said annual wellness visits are entirely different in that they are proactive instead of reactive, designed to keep older adults out of the hospital.

One patient, a recently diagnosed diabetic, came into the visit with a bag filled with loose pills mixed together and asked for help managing her medications.

When another patient expressed reservations about having a colonoscopy, Rougee explained the importance of the screening and discussed noninvasive Cologuard alternatives. The patient was later found positive for colon cancer and is doing well as she receives treatment.

“It’s been very rewarding,” Rougee said.

“The patients are very appreciative, and they’re very excited to have someone they can call if they have any questions or problems.”

Kirby Folse also works as a care coordinator, and she said no-cost annual wellness visits are tailored to individual patients but often entail discussing lifestyle and medical risks, testing for dementia and depression, checking in with a physician and coordinating further screenings.

She said mammograms, colonoscopies, bone density tests, diabetic testing, lung cancer screenings and flu and pneumonia vaccines are often available at no cost to qualifying Medicare patients.

One of the responsibilities of a care coordinator is to stay actively involved with a patient and gain a comprehensive understanding of his or her medical history year-by-year.

“We’re the ones calling the patients and setting up appointments to keep up with them yearly,” Folse said. “Doctors don’t always have the time to spend that full hour with their patients.”

Marketing Director Kassie Roussel said St. James Parish Hospital recently became an Accountable Care Organization, joining an initiative to better serve the aging Medicare community.

The ultimate goal is to help patients live longer, healthier lives with early detection and open communication between an interdisciplinary medical team.

According to Rougee, patients identified through wellness visits as having chronic pain conditions can benefit from chronic care management services.

With the help of a care coordinator, patients will work through pain with monthly meetings, encouragement and goal setting, Rougee said.

To schedule a no-cost annual wellness visit, call 225-258-2066 or 225-258-2067.

St. James Parish Hospital is hosting a variety of educational events this spring, including a diabetes support group, $5 cholesterol and chem profile screenings, CPR and first aid classes, a self-breast exam class and a health fair and senior picnic.

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