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An alternative form of health care

DEVILS LAKE - Deanna Anderson recalls the morning she underwent testing to determine her glucose levels as a part of her routine prenatal exam. "You can't have anything after 10 p.m.," she says. Anderson had to wait before eating breakfast the ne...

DEVILS LAKE - Deanna Anderson recalls the morning she underwent testing to determine her glucose levels as a part of her routine prenatal exam.

"You can't have anything after 10 p.m.," she says.

Anderson had to wait before eating breakfast the next morning, too.

Fasting is a necessary procedure that allows lab technicians to accurately measure how the body digests glucose; however, with an empty stomach, the side effects of the testing are not always pleasant.

"They make you drink this thick orange stuff. You're lucky if it doesn't make you throw up," she says.


Anderson spent the entire morning in the office, as the lab technician repeatedly drew blood to check her glucose levels.

When she received an affirmative diagnosis of gestational diabetes from her doctor, she had an even greater challenge to maintain her health.

"It's life changing," she says.

Many women are able to control the effects of the disease through a proper diet, but Anderson, whose case was more severe, had to take daily doses of insulin.

"I had to buy the biggest syringe they had," she says.


health program

Though Anderson's condition subsided after she gave birth, her doctor was concerned. Due to the nature of her gestational diabetes - and with the prevalence of the disease in her family - Anderson's doctor informed her that she had a strong risk of developing Type II diabetes.


So, when Anderson noticed a flyer in her doctor's office during one of her daughter's routine visits, she decided to find out more.

"I just knew I should give them a call," she says.

The flyer that caught Anderson's eye was for a research program Altru Health System spearheaded as a method to increase health awareness and prevention.

Two years ago, Altru specifically designed the group health approach to aid area women who had gestational diabetes during their pregnancies. Because women who have had gestational diabetes have a greater risk for developing Type II diabetes later in life, Altru has spearheaded a program that provides them with specific prevention strategies.

"Now, almost everybody that comes to the clinic has some type of chronic disease, and chronic disease is not cared for as well in a 15- or 20-minute office visit," says Molly Soeby, Altru Diabetes and Bariatric Center manager.

"We really describe it as individualized care given by the patient's own provider, but in a group setting. There is a lot of patient education and peer support and encouragement," Soeby says.




As an alternative form of care, group health visits are able to go beyond the basic care a patient would receive in a traditional office visit. Initially, the women attend monthly two-hour long visits for one year, which will then stagger to quarterly visits during the next four years.

Anderson, Devils Lake, says the program is well worth the 180-mile round trip drive. Though she acknowledges her dedication may be beyond what some would say is reasonable; she has driven through a winter storm just for the group rapport.

For her, the expense for the program is nominal.

"Normally I would have to pay a co-pay, but the program covers that, so all I have to pay is the gas," she says.

Though community support has been encouraging, Soeby acknowledges group health visits are not for everyone.

"We have had some people drop out for various reasons - some were too busy, one lived far away and opened her own business, another had a promotion at work and didn't have the time anymore," she says.

Yet, the benefits for patients and doctors alike are promising.

"Increased patient education, decreased repetition and real help from patients. The organizational benefits of these visits help with patient access, health maintenance and quality of care," Soeby says. "It can increase productivity and efficiency, provided these visits are well structured."


Anderson, who has been a part of the program for about a year and a half, enjoys the program's targeted educational approach. With each visit she has the opportunity to learn something new from a different health professional, which adds to the advice she receives from her physician.

Some of the topics she found beneficial include proper nutrition, wellness programs and cardiac care.

Improved health,

well-beingThrough the direct guidance of the group visits, Anderson says her overall health has improved. Since she started the program in April 2006, she reduced her blood pressure and lost weight.

Yet medical care isn't the only benefit Anderson and other patients receive. Many of them have been able to develop long-lasting support networks. Some patients are able to open up more easily about their ailments in the comfortable setting, Anderson says.

"Now, we just start talking the minute we get there," she says.

Health care providers also benefit from this increased sense of trust, allowing them the opportunity to address issues that many not arise in a traditional visit.

"It's very interesting that people develop a rapport with one another, and you would be surprised at what comes up at a group medical visit," Soeby says.

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