Mission: Health program helps woman manage unusual case of diabetes
Heather Robbins of Elizabeth City, NC, isn’t the typical member referred to the Mission: Health program for help managing their diabetes. Her type-1 diabetes was caused by complications arising last year from gall stones.
In most cases, the painful condition can be simply treated by removal of the gall bladder, but in Heather’s case, she wound up in Sentara Norfolk General’s ICU for 13 days on a ventilator in situation she describes as “touch and go.” A gall stone had gone astray from the gall bladder, moved through a bile duct and began destroying her pancreas.
Diagnosed as necrotizing pancreatitis, the condition would result in an initial month-long hospital stay last February. Then in June Dr. Douglas Howerton performed a surgical procedure that had never before been done at Sentara, called endoscopic pancreatic necrosectomy, in which he went through her throat and stomach to remove the diseased portion of her pancreas. A second surgery was needed to remove her gall bladder.
As a result of this condition, Heather became a type-1 diabetic because her pancreas no longer manufactures the enzymes she needs for digestion. In addition to injecting herself five times daily with insulin, she also had to take the necessary enzymes in pill form.
In July she went back for more surgery in which Dr. Scott Reed removed her spleen. Following the surgery, she was put on an insulin pump to regulate the insulin release automatically.
The former data entry clerk is married to Mike Robbins, a team leader at Medical Transport, owned by Sentara Healthcare. She’s grateful for the care she received at Sentara Healthcare that she says saved her life, and the continued support she receives through the Mission: Health program that helps her stay on track with her medications.
The Mission: Health employee wellness program, launched in 2008, offers annual $600-plus premium reductions, and, in some cases, additional $460-per-year paid incentives. It also includes personal health assessments, one-on-one wellness coaching with accredited professionals and carefully crafted communications. Employees with no risk factors or those with risk factors who agree to a quarterly telephone conversation with a health coach at least quarterly are eligible for the reduced premiums.
Employees identified with certain chronic diseases – diabetes, coronary artery disease or congestive heart failure – are eligible for an additional $460 in incentives by participating in an evidence-based condition management program.
After five years of helping Sentara Healthcare employees get healthier, Optima Health continues to save money for its parent company — $4 million to be exact. For every dollar invested in the Mission: Health program, Sentara has saved $2.70. Healthcare costs were expected to reach $23 million in 2011; instead they were $21 million.
“Heather has made sure to contact us for updates and to ask questions,” says Lynne Jonas, RN, CCM. “She has become very proactive in her care, knowing when to seek medical care. She works very closely with all of her providers. Her spouse is very involved, and it is encouraging to hear her positive attitude.”
“I got in touch with Lynne after I first came out of the hospital,” Heather says. “I’ve learned a lot quickly. It’s been a big change for everyone in our family. Even my 14-year-old son knows how to take care of me.” She and Mike also have an 18-year-old son who delayed his deployment into the navy because of her medical condition. Heather is now on disability because the neuropathy in her hands resulting from the illness prevents her from doing her job.
“The program has helped me by reminding me to do what I need to do,” she says.
“Our program not only assists participants in obtaining their goals, but provides integrated health care services to meet their ‘head to toe’ needs,” says Lynne. “Positive outcomes are often the result with members achieving needed lifestyle changes.”
In addition to receiving the discount on insurance premiums, the Robbins’ are eligible for the $220 in additional benefits every six months because Heather is in the disease management portion of Mission: Health.
“The financial rewards have helped, too,” Heather says. “Insulin is expensive, even with insurance. The additional money helps with my co-pays.”
Meanwhile, Mike is also getting healthier, working on his own weight loss goals with a health coach through Mission: Health.
“Sentara and Optima Health have been there for us,” Heather says.
For more information about the Mission: Health wellness program outcomes, see “Managing the Wellness Gap.”
Photo: Mike and Heather Robbins with their sons.