Patient Partner - AF4Q Story

My name is Terry Yeager. I was diagnosed with type II diabetes six years ago. This struck me as strange since no other member of my family has had the disease. At first I thought it was just something else in my long list of medical problems. Then my blood sugars began to increase. I began taking metformin, then insulin.

Today, I am still on metformin and both Humulin R & N to try to stay ahead of the numbers. I went to the diabetes diet classes and try to watch my diet and exercise two or three times a week by walking for at least ½ hour. I would like to say my condition is under control, but it is not. Therefore, I go to my endocrinologist on a regular basis.

One day, I received a call from the manager at York Wellspan Endocrinology. She asked me if I would like to be a patient/partner with the Practice. What is that? She explained the patients sit in on Practice meetings once a month and discuss what is right and what is wrong with the Practice and in medicine in general. In these meetings, there is no doctor to patient relationship. There is a free flow of information and ideas from both sides. When a good idea is discovered, we try to incorporate it into the Practice and, in fact, into the Wellspan organization. Actually, at least once a month, all the practices join in either a webinar (conference call) or a dinner meeting to discuss issues. I have been to six meetings.

At first, I felt intimated by being the only patient talking one on one with the nurses and providers. They soon made me feel at home and I was able to express my thoughts without fear of recrimination. Actually, I learned a long time ago that medical professionals are not gods and you can talk openly at any visit. But unfortunately, many folks still have the stigma that the provider is always right and do not ask questions. This is one of the issues and is a top priority we are dealing with in our Practice meetings. Other areas are: 1. Dealing with High Blood pressure. 2. Tobacco cessation. 3. Keeping A1C readings in check. 4. How to deal with folks who do not speak English. 5. Installing an information board in the waiting room to keep patients informed if the provider is running late. 6. Developing a secure website to transfer information to patients. 7. How to share information with providers outside of Wellspan. 8. Placing medical diagnosis on prescription bottles. 9. Helping patients take charge of their health and health problems. 10. Other issues as they are discovered.

Since I began attending meetings, another patient has been asked to join us. Her input has also been very well received. The whole patient/partner idea is a part of a regional organization called "Aligning Forces for Quality" (AF4Q). This organization is only a few years old, but looks at the big picture of medicine on a regional scale. However, information is listed on a national level as well. Its mission is "Improving Health & Health Care in Communities across South Central Pennsylvania". I have been to some of their meetings and have learned a great deal. In September, a person by the name of E patient Dave gave a talk about his walk from a debilitating disease, through remission and to becoming a health care advocate. His story was quite moving. He has a website (http://www.epatientdave.com) with much more information. Also, AF4Q has a website (http://www.aligning4healthpa.org/). Here you will find a wealth of information to help you better understand, take control and manage your health problems.

This brings me back to my problem with uncontrolled type II diabetes. With what I have learned from this whole experience, I am hoping to be able to control my numbers and better my own health care management.

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