Holistic Healthcare: Learn the Benefits of Integrative Care Through Personal Health Nurses

Installment 3 of 6: “Empowering Employers in 2024: Strategies for Effective Employee Health Management and Financial Optimization”

Empowering Employers in 2024 Series

Installment 3
Holistic Healthcare: Learn the Benefits of Integrative Care Through Personal Health Nurses

Our healthcare system has become increasingly fragmented and episodic, and it’s had a negative impact on member health and employer healthcare costs. Consider the number of options members now have for where to receive their care. They may go to a retail clinic for a cold, an urgent care clinic for a sprained ankle, an ENT for an allergy, a community health center for a screening, and a pharmacy clinic for a wellness checkup.

Even for members who have a primary care physician (PCP), the amount of time available to spend with the doctor during the visit is often limited to just 10 or 15 minutes, leaving only enough time to diagnose an illness and prescribe a medicine. This type of fragmented, episodic care has become sick care, not health care, and it ignores the fact that the patient is a complex human being with multiple systems that work together. In other words, there is no single entity connecting all the dots of the individual’s healthcare in a holistic way.

A Better Approach

More forward-thinking organizations are trying to reduce episodic care by implementing programs that approach member healthcare holistically and encouraging more effective utilization of healthcare benefits and provider collaboration.

At the foundation of these efforts is a personal health nurse (PHN). PHNs are registered nurses who act as a conduit to connect the dots of a member’s healthcare journey. This includes the following:

  • Educating the patient about their condition(s) and care plans
  • Becoming a valued partner with the patient in their efforts to make lifestyle changes and health improvements
  • Removing barriers that prevent members from getting the care they need
  • Collaborating with the member’s providers to ensure a holistic approach
  • Guiding the patient toward the most cost-effective, appropriate care settings and services
  • Supporting the member to emphasize care plan and medication compliance
  • Connecting members to support services and community resources

Personal health nurses are different from care navigators. Personal health nurses focus on member education, clinical outcomes, and interventions, whereas care navigators are typically non-clinical call center staff who are trained to answer basic questions.

Success Story

A 49-year-old woman with a diagnosis of depression and PTSD from prior domestic violence reached out to her Personal Health Nurse asking for assistance. The member had no primary care provider and was using emergency departments and urgent care centers for non-urgent needs like medication refills and a sore throat.

How the Conifer Health PHN Helped

  • Assessed the member’s health status, determined specific areas where assistance and encouragement would be needed and jointly developed goals
  • Determined member stopped weekly counselor visits and was not taking antidepressant medications
  • Encouraged member to resume weekly counselor visits and stressed the importance of having therapy support
  • Coordinated a new PCP provider and scheduled a new member visit
  • Provided education coping mechanisms and recovering from domestic violence, as well as local support groups

Member Results

  • Now an established patient with his (or her) PCP no longer using the ER for regular care
  • Completed all past-due screenings and lab work, and all test results were within normal limits
  • Resumed weekly counselor appointments
  • Met all current goals and will reach out to the PHN again with any future needs

Creating a More Holistic Healthcare Experience

Holistic healthcare is a comprehensive approach that recognizes the danger of episodic care, focusing instead on creating a more integrated healthcare experience that treats the individual as a whole person. In an era where more care options and specialized treatments abound, Conifer Health PHNs play a vital role in guiding members on a more effective healthcare journey that reduces costs, improves outcomes, and creates a better healthcare experience.

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