Care Managers Help Patients Control Chronic Disease

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WEST DES MOINES, Iowa –It can be difficult to manage chronic diseases like diabetes and high blood pressure on your own. Care managers at one metro clinic could help.

You'd think Maureen Jacobson and Heather Selby are long-time friends. But, Selby said, "I think I got introduced to her earlier this yet."

The new relationship is critical to keeping Heather healthy. She said, "I have diabetes type 2. I was diagnosed back in April, I think, of 2013, so it was a very hard adjustment going from old eating habits to going very healthy."

That's where Jacobson comes in. She's a care manager at The Iowa Clinic. She meets with Selby weekly, typically on the phone. They also check in by e-mail. Selby said, "She's there helping me motivate myself getting my routine back in order. She is a coach, she keeps you going."

The Iowa Clinic started offering care managers about a year ago. Dr. Christi Taylor said, "They form a relationship with the patient, and they really help educate the patient as to the condition and what they can do personally to try to keep that condition in good control."

The service is part of its Accountable Care Organization, to help people manage chronic diseases. Dr. Taylor said, "This is an investment from The Iowa Clinic. We think this is an important thing to do for a certain subset of our patients. The physicians and medical teams here have said, you know, certain people need more education and need more from us."

The Iowa Clinic has eight care managers who are all certified health coaches. The care managers also call patients to schedule cancer screenings and physicals. Dr. Taylor said, “You just don't get it scheduled and so someone calls and we really need to get this done, and just sort of helps make it happen, and we've found some early cancers that have probably saved their lives."

Selby said having a care manager has changed her life. “I think having that person on your side pulling for you and doing what they can to get your health where it should be so your quality of life is a lot better," she said.

The goal of an Accountable Care Organization is to cut health care costs by keeping patients healthier. Dr. Taylor says The Iowa Clinic is noticing a return on its investment.

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