Care Coordination: Changing Lives at Grinnell Family Practice

Care Coordination: Changing Lives at Grinnell Family Practice

Melissa, patient at UnityPoint Health - Grinnell Family Practice, and Katie Cummings, BSN, RN, Care Coordinator at UnityPoint Health - Grinnell Family Practice

Care Coordination: Changing Lives at Grinnell Family Practice

While the new year always seems to bring about a time of resolutions, the reality is every day is the right time to make a commitment to your health. One of the best commitments you can make is choosing a primary care doctor who will understand your medical history and health needs.

Melissa, a patient at UnityPoint Health – Grinnell Family Practice, had been unsatisfied with her weight but took the wake-up call of a routine physical to heart. With the right support from Grinnell Family Practice, she has lost more than 90 pounds.

“I went to see my primary care physician for a pre-surgery physical for an upcoming knee replacement. When I got on the scale, I was the heaviest I’ve ever been. And I just broke down. I wasn’t happy, and I didn’t want to be like this anymore,” Melissa shares.

The team at Grinnell Family Practice was there to help. “My physician was incredibly supportive and listened. Then she asked me if I’d be willing to see Katie, a health coach at Grinnell Family Practice. I said ‘yes’ because I was ready to make a change,” Melissa says. At Grinnell Family Practice, Katie Cummings, BSN, RN, is a care coordinator who help patients manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, high cholesterol, weight management and more. Cummings helped Melissa plan and implement lifestyle changes to lose weight and reduce the associated health risks.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 49 percent of adults have tried to lose weight in the past year, but losing weight is difficult. Studies have shown that individualized weight-loss plans work better than one-size-fits-all fad diets, because our bodies respond differently to different combinations of nutrients and exercise. However, almost all successful diets involve adjusting your everyday behaviors.

Cummings focuses on advising patients about how their body works and how to care for it. “I strive to equip each person with the education and tools they need to succeed. Whether that’s a portion plate, exercise, food journaling or even just being someone to hold them accountable to their goals and celebrate their progress with them,” Cummings says.

The components of a healthy lifestyle Cummings emphasizes are diet and exercise. “I use current dietary guidelines to inform patients about their nourishment options. This includes recommended portions, eating clean and increasing intake of fruits and vegetables, healthy fats and healthy carbohydrates. Nutrition can be overwhelming. It’s really about finding a healthy lifestyle – not a fad diet,” she adds.

Finding what kind of physical activity works with a person’s life is also essential. “I encourage an active lifestyle that’s tailored to each individual I work with,” Cummings says. “Customized support is key for them to experience success and be able to make a lifestyle change to support their health goals.”

Research from the National Institutes of Health has shown that focusing on health goals rather than a number on a scale improves motivation. Primary care physicians refer patients based on specific health problems that losing weight can help to resolve.

More than 87 percent of adults with Type 2 diabetes are also overweight or obese, and losing weight can stop or delay the onset of diabetes. And, you don’t have to be stick-thin to be healthier: as little as five percent of body weight, or ten pounds for a 200 pound person, can have a noticeable effect.

Cummings has personal experience with how costly the complications of chronic illness can be. “I have a particular love for educating people about diabetes – this stems from my grandfather. He was a diabetic and lost both legs due to the disease. I want to be able to help others prevent complications like that from happening to them.”

Cummings values getting to know her patients as unique individuals. “I previously worked in home health care – and one of the aspects of that work that I enjoyed and is similar to what I do now, is really getting to know patients and their lifestyle away from the doctor’s office,” she says.

An individualized, patient-focused strategy and Melissa’s persistence paid off. “With Katie’s guidance and support – and my determination – I’ve lost over 90 pounds in six months,” Melissa says. “I have way more energy than before; I don’t feel nearly as tired as I used to.”

The relationship of support and trust between patient and care coordinator helped Melissa realize her health goals. “Katie is such a great supporter,” Melissa says. “She encourages me and celebrates my successes with me. She really believed in me and even wrote me a handwritten card to congratulate me on achieving my goals. I feel like she is truly my life coach and that support has made such a huge difference.”

Grinnell Family Practice supports the development of those essential relationships between a person and their care team. “I love working at Grinnell Family Practice because of our great providers,” Cummings says. “They refer people to me that could benefit from some extra education, guidance and support to reach their wellness goals. The providers then receive updates from me about progress their patients are making.”

Grinnell Family Practice offer four family medicine physicians and one care coordinator to support the health and well-being of you and your loved ones. To learn more, visit unitypoint.org/primary.