ABOVE: Participants in Tuesday's production hold signs showing which healthcare provider they represented.

RIGHT: "Mr. Rogers" is taken to the hospital by EMS.

Iredell Healthcare Forum takes caregivers on journey through healthcare system

Posted at 6:48 PM on Oct 17, 2017



Navigating the healthcare system when facing a medical crisis can feel overwhelming for both patients and caregivers.

To help walk people through all the options available, the Iredell County Healthcare Forum presented “Mr. Roger’s Healthcare Journey” on Tuesday afternoon at Northview Church of Christ.

The play featured Mr. Rogers, his adult daughter and a host of medical professionals — all portrayed by various representatives of local healthcare providers.

Taking it step-by-step, the journey followed the patient (Mr. Rogers) and his caregiver (his daughter) from the onset of symptoms to his primary care physician, urgent care, EMS transport, the hospital, a skilled nursing facility, the pharmacy, home and palliative care and the elder center.

“We want to explain how to navigate the healthcare system and all of the options available in Iredell County,” said Stuart Meadow of Catawba Regional Hospice.

The first step for the fictional Mr. Rogers was a visit to his primary care physician, Dr. Michael Salter, who explained that a primary care doctor oversees all aspects of a patient’s care, from routine check-ups to managing chronic conditions and coordinating with specialists. He emphasized the importance of patients or caregivers contacting their doctor as soon as they have health concerns.

“We’re here to identify things and fix them now so they don’t cause further problems,” Salter said.

After Mr. Rogers received his diagnosis, he failed to take all of his medications as he should. That led to a visit to urgent care.

“Urgent care has extended hours and fills the gap when you can’t access your primary physician,” explained Marian Kimball of Piedmont Healthcare, adding that all information from a visit to urgent care is shared with the primary physician.

Mr. Rogers’ condition was so severe that urgent care called Emergency Medical Services. Responding to acute illnesses is a large part of what Iredell County EMS personnel see on a daily basis, said Ryan Wilmoth.

Common situations include early recognition of symptoms of stroke, heart attack, diabetes complications or allergic reaction.

“It’s important to call us immediately if you notice something,” he said.

The next stop for Mr. Rogers was the hospital, where he was evaluated and a plan of care was formed to treat his situation, Tanya Sprinkle of Iredell Health System and Twana Cass of Davis Regional Medical Center explained. It was agreed that the goal was for Mr. Rogers to be able to return home and live as independently as possible.

They also discussed his options upon leaving the hospital, which included skilled nursing, assisted living and home care.

A skilled care facility was the next step in the journey, where Anita Christian of Autumn Care told Mr. Rogers he would “get therapies and get stronger and work on all those things you were able to do before.”

Finally on his way home, Mr. Rogers stopped at the pharmacy to get his medications and discuss options for medical equipment he might need. Carla Norman of 1st RX told him the pharmacist can work with patients on affordability and making sure they are taking the correct medications.

The last stop on the journey was home, where Mr. Rogers had home care at night, spent days at the Elder Center so his caregiver could work and received palliative care to help with some symptoms.

Home care can provide everything from creating a treatment plan and managing medicines to transportation, meal preparation and light housekeeping, said Jeff Corbett of Kindred at Home.

“We want to keep you as mobile and independent as you can be,” he said.

And Palliative Care is a consultative service that works with the patient’s primary care doctor to “manage symptoms that patients have that can affect quality of life,” said Sarah Kivett of Hospice & Palliative Care of Iredell County.

Palliative care physicians will come to the patient’s home, which can eliminate the need for many doctor’s visits, added Jacqueline Brown of Catawba Regional Hospice.

As for the Elder Center, “we like to call it home away from home,” said Tammy Money, noting that meals, activities and outings are all available for clients.

For all of the steps listed above, the health professionals discussed the different possibilities for payment, from Medicare and Medicaid to long-term care insurance or the VA. They emphasized that providers will be happy to work with patients to determine the best options.

Other services of note during the forum were ICATS, which will provide free transportation to medical appointments, and the Council on Aging, which operates senior centers in Statesville and Mooresville.

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