Eastern Minnesota

First State Bank partners with Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness Program

Saint Elizabeth’s Laboratory Director Rachel Thimmesch performs a lab draw on Lisa Springer, loan secretary at First State Bank of Wabasha.

When First State Bank (FSB) of Wabasha decided to make employee wellness a priority, it wasn’t only the right thing to do, it made good business sense. As health care costs continue to escalate at a rapid pace, employers that offer health coverage to their workforce are struggling to balance double-digit increases in their premiums.

One solution that is making a measurable impact is the establishment of worksite wellness programs. According to several national wellness and prevention studies, companies that implement comprehensive health promotion activities can realize a $3 to $6 return on every one dollar spent on wellness. This kind of return on investment doesn’t happen overnight but with a long-term commitment to employee wellness, businesses can experience favorable financial and culture change benefits.

This has been the case for Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Wabasha. Its worksite wellness activities have been in place for more than 10 years. In 2004, Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness Committee ramped up its efforts to engage more employees through the creation of an annual WellScreen program.

The WellScreen offers a comprehensive picture of current risk factors. A biometric screen, which includes total cholesterol, HDL / LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood glucose, along with blood pressure, girth measurement, and a personalized health risk assessment and consultation, provides employees with a meaningful review of their health status and a customized action plan that focuses on lifestyle change, risk reduction, and long-term health improvement.

The success of this program served as the catalyst to offer the product to other local and area businesses that are seeking ways to create a culture of wellness in their workplaces. FSB is the first organization to partner with Saint Elizabeth’s in their quest to become a healthier workforce.

“Our focus on wellness actually began four years ago,” explains Lisa Springer, loan secretary. “Bank President John Doffing was instrumental in creating a fitness center in renovated space on the second floor. Exercise equipment was purchased and employees were given round-the-clock access to the space. Employees use the facility before work, during their lunch, and in the evenings and weekends – especially in the winter months.”

“Providing a convenient location to exercise and offering the facility as an employee benefit minimizes barriers that often stand in the way from getting regular physical activity,” Doffing adds. “It’s been a good addition, but we knew we needed to do more.”

A wellness committee was formed to identify additional needs and gaps that could be met through the offering of some kind of health risk assessment program. Having heard about Saint Elizabeth’s Wellness Program, they contacted Jim Root, VP of human resources, and Paula Thompson, registered dietitian, to find out how a collaborative effort could work between the organizations.

“We welcomed the opportunity to present the benefits and outcomes of Saint Elizabeth’s WellnessWorks program to FSB,” Root said. “We had been discussing the opportunity to reach out to other businesses and offer our services and experiences. This invitation gave us the impetus to formalize and organize a menu of services that we believed had the greatest potential for success in other workplaces. Over the years, we’ve tested and trialed many wellness activities. We’ve learned that prevention is not an exact science. Some wellness offerings have worked well; others have not. We’re continuously making adjustments and enhancements to improve our program. We don’t have all the answers, but we are willing to share our successes. So far, our providers are supportive, more employees are engaged, and we are seeing signs that healthy employees are staying healthy, and many with risk factors are taking action to reduce them.”

At the beginning of the program, staff from Saint Elizabeth’s was onsite at FSB, drawing blood, taking blood pressures, and measuring height, weight, and girth. After a few weeks, FSB employees received a one-on-one consultation with a clinician. During this confidential review of results, the clinician explained the numbers and offered specific action steps. If results were “red flagged” and fell outside of the recommended prevention guidelines, employees were encouraged to make an appointment with their health care provider for a follow-up visit. Other lifestyle interventions were also suggested.

“We are thrilled with the response,” adds Springer. “One-hundred percent of our employees participated. We believed this was the first step to health improvement. By knowing our numbers, we gained a better understanding of what lifestyle changes we needed to commit to. This information encouraged more personal responsibility. With Saint Elizabeth’s serving as the third party, employees felt confident that their health information remained private.”

According to Paula Thompson, FSB received a wellness report that provides aggregate data without disclosing private patient information. These generalized findings helped guide a wellness plan and identify areas of focus for future wellness programming for bank employees and their families. In the months that followed, FSB would implement education and activities to teach, motivate, and inspire employees to adopt healthy habits that last a lifetime.

SEMC dedicated to patient-centered care

Saint Elizabeth’s believes in teamwork to provide excellent patient care. Pictured are members of Saint Elizabeth’s team with patient Myrtle Carlson.

Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center in Wabasha ranked fifth out of 268 facilities to receive the NRC Picker’s 2010 Path to Excellence award.

NRC Picker, a division of National Research Corporation, conducts patient satisfaction surveys and research, and awarded Saint Elizabeth’s with a fifth place ranking overall in the category for hospitals under 250 beds.

Eighty percent of patients treated during the previous four quarters gave Saint Elizabeth’s an excellent rating – with scores of 9 or 10 on a 10-point scale. “Earning the award indicates a strong and ongoing commitment to the practice of patient-centered care,” said Jason Rau, NRC Picker president. “The success of Saint Elizabeth’s proves its staff and providers are doing what’s best and what’s most important for patients and their families.”

“We are always striving to exceed patient expectations,” said Joni Lommen, vice president of clinical services. “Every employee – from our housekeepers to our nurses – plays a vital role in ensuring our patients have a positive experience.”

Saint Elizabeth’s enhances safety and quality

Pharmacist Anna Battcher makes her daily rounds stocking Saint Elizabeth’s new Pyxis Medication Management System.

Kathy Lueders, RN, uses Pyxis to access an injectable medication that is securely stored in a refrigerated compartment.

It’s later in the evening on the Medical/Surgical floor at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center. One of the patients, who was admitted that morning, is experiencing a setback. A call to the patient’s doctor has resulted in a new order – a change in medication. Within minutes, the nurse is back in the patient’s room administering the drug. The recent installation of an automated medication dispensary called Pyxis is Saint Elizabeth’s newest advancement aimed at reducing medication errors and improving patient safety and quality of care.

The system combines computerized technology with secure storage capabilities to ensure medications are safeguarded, readily available, and convenient to access.

When a nurse needs a drug, controlled substance, or intravenous mixture, she simply follows the instructions on the touch screen. First, a password is entered; then the nurse places her finger on the identification pad. Once clearance is authorized, she can search by medication name (brand or generic) to find the correct drug. Another push of a screen icon will activate the opening of a drawer or cabinet where the drug is stored. After the nurse takes the medication from Pyxis, she completes the procedure by closing the medication drawer. Every step in the process is recorded for safety and security purposes. Reports serve to monitor access, usage, and potential discrepancies.

“We have always had rigorous medication policies and procedures,” explains Kathy Lueders, interim director of nursing. “Pyxis takes it to another level. Hospitals across the country have been scrutinized for adverse health events, including medication errors. Saint Elizabeth’s is doing everything possible to make sure we have the tools and resources to minimize errors and protect our patients.”

Pyxis is the “after-hours” pharmacy, explains Tracy Henn, PharmD, who was involved in the launch of the project at Saint Elizabeth’s. Many of the routine drugs that patients are given while hospitalized are still being administered through a secured medication cart that is stocked by the pharmacy on a daily basis.

Pyxis takes over when the pharmacy is closed. Eventually – after the upgrades of Saint Elizabeth’s inpatient and pharmacy electronic information systems are complete - all medications will be accessed from Pyxis.

Pyxis also serves the Emergency Department. Physicians and nurses have quick access to a myriad of medications used to treat trauma and severely ill patients, and urgent care patients on the weekends. “In the same way, drawers and refrigerated cabinets pop open once the medication is requested on the touch screen,” Lueders adds. “It’s fast. It’s easy. It’s reliable.”

Anna Battcher, PharmD, coordinates the Pyxis project. Having worked with Pyxis as an intern, she came to Saint Elizabeth’s 6 months ago with experience. She quickly became the “go to” person for training and troubleshooting. She monitors the Pyxis ‘brain’ center, watches for system alerts, and reviews system access and utilization. Most days, she restocks both systems and touches base with nurses to make sure they are feeling comfortable with the new process.

“No matter how user-friendly an automated system can be, there is still a learning curve,” Anna says. “Despite a few challenges, the staff is embracing the benefits of Pyxis. The system is a standard of medication management at many hospitals. It strengthens our ability to ensure medication security and patient safety. Although it is too early to measure specific outcomes, I am confident quality of care and service will be impacted positively because of this quality improvement project.”

Follow up confirms care for patients

Aleeta Hetrick, LPN, Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center, enjoys connecting with patients after they have returned home. Discharge phone calls provide an opportunity for the nursing staff to follow up, troubleshoot, ask questions, and seek feedback.

“Hello Mr. Smith. I am Aleeta, a nurse at Saint Elizabeth’s, and I am calling to see how you are doing since you left the hospital.”

Following this introduction, Aleeta Hetrick, LPN, and a team of other nurses at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center follow a script of questions. They ask the patient how they are feeling and if they are experiencing pain. They inquire about their discharge instructions to make sure that patients understand them. They ask about medications, follow-up appointments, and determine if any new symptoms have surfaced.

Before ending the call, the nurses also inquire about the satisfaction level of the patient’s care, determine if Saint Elizabeth’s could have done anything differently to improve service, and ask if any staff member is deserving of special recognition. The conversation may only take 5 to 10 minutes, but the feedback gathered can have lasting residual effects.

“We launched this customer service initiative about a month ago,” shares Kathy Lueders, interim director of nursing. “It’s an important part of our Journey to Excellence. The foundation of our program is our Promise: We work together to keep PATIENTS FIRST in everything we do. We do this by keeping the doors of communication open. While patients are hospitalized, I stop in for a brief visit. We talk about their care and I ask if they can identify anything that needs improvement. By engaging our patients, we empower them to take an active role in their health care. By listening to them, we can take immediate steps to make adjustments or changes that matter most.”

Sometimes patients can feel overwhelmed by the instructions they are given, fears of the unknown, and unfamiliar routines and surroundings. The phone calls, which are placed within 48 hours of discharge, and provide one more opportunity to show compassion, to follow up, and to build their confidence.

Nurses make sure patients remember and understand their at-home instructions. The outreach also offers the invitation to share concerns and compliments. Every effort is made to reach each patient, but sometimes it does not happen.

Nurses will try to call the patient three times between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. There are no messages left in order to protect patient privacy. Patients appreciate the call and many share their comments. The calls can also alert the nursing staff to potential health setbacks or problems. This allows the nursing staff to respond quickly, and possibly ward off serious complications.

Aleeta believes the discharge calls are going well. “So far, every patient has been willing to participate,” she says. “Fortunately, most of their comments are positive. They have few complaints and rarely want to single out any one person for the care they received. Patients seem grateful for the extra effort we make to follow up with them, and we are thankful for their feedback and suggestions.”

According to Lueders, the information gathered is documented, reviewed, and shared so lessons can be learned, staff can be recognized, and ongoing improvements can be made.

Do you suffer from heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, metabolic syndrome or high cholesterol?


Our exercise specialists will help you

  • review your medical history
  • define your fitness goals
  • develop an individualized exercise plan
  • develop a lifelong commitment to exercise

Join the FRESH START Program at Saint Elizabeth’s Medical Center’s expanded Wellness Center and take control of your health.

If you want to be in better health, feel fit and live longer, join us for an 8-week program that includes:

  • monitored exercise led by exercise specialists
  • monthly reports sent to your physician
  • health and nutrition education
  • support from the Wellness staff and fellow participants.

For more information about your personalized Fresh Start program, call 651.565.5519.

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