Healthy Conversations

Healthy Conversations with Saint Alphonsus

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Nurses Week Appreciation

During Nurses Week, I would like to take the opportunity to celebrate and thank our nurses for their commitment, knowledge, and compassion.  As a former nurse myself, I recognize the significant contribution nurses provide to ensure the delivery of excellent patient care.  It’s something Saint Alphonsus values not just during Nurses Week, but every day of the year.

Over the past year I have personally witnessed the dedication and passion our nurses live every day, as they either facilitate or directly provide personalized and meaningful patient care.

My heartfelt thanks go to our dedicated nurses, for all they do each and every day!

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Breast Cancer and Genetic Testing

A few nights ago, KTVB Channel 7 ran a story on Annie – one of Dr. Prier’s patients at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.  At the age of 28, she faced a positive BRCA diagnosis, and had to make some tough decisions.  See the full story here.  


Photo courtesy of

With the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure coming up, this story helps in reflecting on how many people have been affected by breast cancer.  Most could instantly think of someone they personally know that’s had to face the disease.  Breast cancer doesn’t really play favorites – it impacts mothers, daughters, grandmothers, and sisters.  It’s diagnosed in career women, stay-at-home moms, students, and otherwise healthy people.  In fact, hundreds of thousands of strong women across the U.S. are affected by breast cancer each year – women that are forced to battle for their lives against a disease that still has no cure.

Fortunately, science and technology are progressing.  We now know that certain types of people are more susceptible to breast cancer through their genetics and family history.  By isolating the “BRCA” (or “BReast CAncer) gene, doctors and laboratories are able to take a pre-emptive strike against the disease.  

This is bitter-sweet news for those that undergo genetic testing.  A positive BRCA test often means a mastectomy, which can be a frightening thought for some.  On the other hand, a positive genetic test means that a mastectomy surgery will exponentially lower the chances for developing breast cancer.  And with incredible advances in plastic surgery, the mastectomy is a safer and more appealing option than ever before.  

While there is still no cure, we have found ways to more precisely diagnose, treat, and put breast cancer into remission.  We must continue our journey to finding a cure, as hundreds of thousands of women’s lives depend on our support each year.  

To show your support, join the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure by clicking here.  You may also be a candidate for free genetic counseling at Saint Alphonsus, depending on your family history – find out more by calling (208) 367-8787 or by clicking here to find out more.  

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Healing Through Music

One of our Chaplains, Ben Chon, has been sharing his musical talents with cancer patients in the infusion clinic a few times a week for quite some time.  He sings, plays his guitar, and talks to them while they receive treatment.  The patients are so grateful for his presence, and they always express how his music takes their mind off of their pain, eases their anxiety, and gives them hope.

Photo courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

Chaplain Ben’s musical contribution to patients at the Cancer Care Center is a testament to the importance that a full music therapy program can provide in the healing process.  The Integrative Care Team was inspired by Chaplain Ben’s healing approach through music and decided to develop a complete music therapy program.  They began by applying for a LIVESTRONG grant, in hopes of funding a full music therapy program for the Cancer Care Center at Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center.  To win the grant, they needed to garner the most votes out of over 100 hospitals and other competing organizations who also applied for grants.  It was a long shot, but the Cancer Care Team and Chaplain Ben had hope.

Over the last few weeks, they experienced something amazing – an overwhelming outpouring of support from both the community and the Saint Alphonsus staff.  The votes were enough to win a $15,600 grant from LIVESTRONG, making a new music therapy program possible!

I’m so proud to join them in celebrating this achievement.  It touches me to know that they are so continuously passionate about the well-being of our patients facing cancer.  With this LIVESTRONG grant, the Cancer Care Team and Chaplain Ben will have brought the healing presence of music to people facing life’s toughest health challenges.

To see more about the program, check out KTVB’s great report on our LIVESTRONG grant and the music therapy program at Saint Alphonsus (click here)

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Four Years of Serving Together as a Health System

AnniversaryApril 1, 2014 marked the four-year anniversary of our four hospitals and Saint Alphonsus Medical Group coming together to form Saint Alphonsus Health System.  As I reflect over these past years, I am proud of how we have matured into our new mission of being a compassionate and transforming healing presence within our communities.  Through new services, enhanced facilities, and with all of us serving together, we are improving the quality and access for those we serve.

There is no doubt that we are being challenged by the many transitions in healthcare.  As our industry is faced with the demand in how we operate and what we deliver, I am confident we are transforming in a positive way to meet the needs of our patients and communities.   Our impressive successes and roll-out of a number of initiatives this past year is proof of that.  To name a few, some of those of which I am most proud of include:

It is a wonderful coincidence that Saint Alphonsus Health System’s anniversary and Easter fall so close together.  This is certainly a time for us to celebrate and give thanks to all who have helped welcome newborns to begin their lives, those who comfort and support the families of our patients, and to all who care for those who need our skills to help them heal from illness and injury.

So please allow me to express my gratitude and appreciation by wishing you all “Happy Anniversary” and a wonderful Easter!

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Letters from Patients and Families

Working on the front lines in health care can be challenging.  I know first-hand, as I too worked as a nurse for a number of years some time ago.  Working in a healthcare setting tests our patience, our emotional strength, and our confidence.  Sometimes, when there’s a tough day, we wonder why we do it.

But then we remember the patients.  We remember the sDSC_1145miles, the laughs, and the gratitude that we feel when someone is healing.  We remember how the little actions that we do every day can make a world of difference for those in need of care. We remember the letters and notes we receive from our patients that express their gratitude for their nurse, their doctor, and the other people at Saint Alphonsus that made their healing experience better.

I would like to share with you some snippets of the thank-you notes we have received recently from our patients and their families.  They express how our people at Saint Alphonsus make lasting impressions on them.

Here are a few highlights:

“We just wanted you to know how much we appreciate you for your integrity and going the extra mile on our behalf.  Thank you for employing such caring people who will reach out to help anyone in need.”

“A little over 18 months ago I was admitted to your outstanding hospital with a very serious condition.  Instead of dying, I’ve just recently enjoyed the birth of my 3rd grandson!”

“When all the test results were in, I knew that my daughter was not going to recover.  In your hospital, you treated a dying patient with hope as if she would live.  I asked to take her home, and the staff worked to make it possible.  I got to cuddle my daughter in my arms one last time.”

“From the moment I entered the clinic, everyone was professional, concerned, polite, and very helpful.  My care far exceeded my expectations and I will be sure to refer others to the clinic in the future.”

“Just outstanding!”

“I’ve had three kids at Saint Al’s, both were c-sections, and my nurse was phenomenal.  When my friends tell me that they are having a baby at Saint Al’s, I tell them to ask for my nurse.  I feel like I made new friends and I miss them already.”

“You did a superior job taking care of my mother.  You went above and beyond to make sure my mom received the best care that day.”

“A great job by all!”

“You took the time to listen to my concerns and did so in the most professional way, leaving me with a very good impression.”

“I have experienced excellent care from multiple clerks, technicians, and professionals who administer tests and imaging studies.  I know I am in a quality facility when janitorial staff help me find my designation without being asked.”

These comments are only a few among the numerous patient letters we receive on a regular basis.  I’m proud of the effort by everyone at Saint Alphonsus in creating the best experience possible for our patients and their families.

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The Health Care Choice

The recent changes in health care have resulted in some employers changing the way they offer health care to their employees.  In some instances, it’s become harder to find the perfect plan, and things like “health risk assessments” and “premium increases” have become very familiar terms.

Fortunately, one of the choices that’s being offered by some employers is something called the Patient Centered Medical Home – or PCMH for short.  I have invited Dr. Steven D. Brown, our Chief Medical Officer, to talk a little more about this new approach to healthcare, and how it can benefit you.  Here’s what he had to say.

“Imagine that your employeBrown Steven- CMO_croppedr has given you a choice:  either get a primary care doctor and complete a health risk assessment, or face a 30% increase in your insurance premiums.    A 30% increase on premiums could, for many, be a significant chunk of change.  On the other hand, you’d like to be able to go to the doctor when you want, and where you want.  So which choice do you make?  What’s best for you and your family?

These choices are increasingly common with employers as they change the health insurance plans they offer to employees to reduce cost while improving the health of their staff.  Studies have shown that those who have a regular primary care doctor and participate in wellness activities have lower health care costs.  With many employers facing the harsh reality of cost cutting, they are being forced to control healthcare costs, or start cutting elsewhere – with employees, raises, or other benefits.

Some of the new plans offered by employers include Patient Centered Medical Homes (PCMH).  For some, hearing “Medical Home” conjures an unappealing nursing home vision.  On the contrary – these PCMHs are simply a different approach to health care, rather than a physical “home.”  So what’s the difference between the insurance plan you may have now and on that includes a PCMH?  With the PCMH plans, patients are offered the benefits of a patient centered, team based approach.  But what exactly does that mean?

Patient centered health care is more proactive, rather than reactive.  In more traditional models of health care, patients sought care only when they were sick.  In the PCMH, health plans work with patients to maintain wellness activities such as immunizations, mammography, Pap smears, blood pressure checks and other preventative exams.  Think of it as a pre-emptive strike against health problems down the road. 

The PCMH allows patients to access more care in different ways, as well.  In addition to clinics extending their open hours, patients can also communicate with their clinic electronically and see their records online, all securely through the Internet.  Plus, the team-based approach means patients have a whole team – not just one doctor – looking after them.

Liken the PCMH plan to a sports team – running practiced plays, coordinating positions, maximizing efficiency, and working as a team to win the game.  The patient is a part of the “health care team” in a PCMH; understanding their options, having medical information available, and being expected to do their part in maintaining wellness. 

As health care change accelerates, so does the difficulty in navigating some of the choices offered and the benefits you can receive.  The PCMH will offer an alternative to the traditional role of fragmented medical records, doctors, specialists, and appointments.  Instead, your experience will become more seamless than ever, and give you the resources to reach your best health.

At Saint Alphonsus, we have three PCMH clinics within our Medical Group:  Eagle Health Plaza, McMillan Clinic, and the Overland Clinic.  With their experienced staff of doctors, they carefully monitor wellness and chronic disease programs for about 27,000 patients.  Additionally, Saint Alphonsus is planning to convert all its primary care clinics to PCMHs in the next two years as it works with employers and insurers.  We’ve made the investment in training, electronic systems and staffing to make your care as efficient and effective as possible.  We’re dedicated to improving the value of your care, meaning better quality at a lower cost.”

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Childhood Obesity in Idaho

Yesterday, we had the pleasure of welcoming Dr. Steven Kelder to Saint Alphonsus Regional Medical Center for the fourth installment of the Healthcare Roundtable.  Dr. Kelder, a professor and researcher at the University of Texas, is an expert in the field of childhood obesity prevention.  His work has been featured on the HBO documentary, Weight of the Nation, and his knowledge and insight of the future of our nation’s health is astounding.  He presented some compelling and concerning information about the current state of childhood obesity in America.

For instance:

  • 37% of adults are pre-diabetic.DSC_0588
  • America spends over $190 billion each year on obesity-related illness.
  • 34% of all American kids are overweight.
  • 75% of young Americans are ineligible to join the
  • military
    because they are too overweight.
  • Kids are only getting 1.3 minutes per school day of nutrition education – the necessary minimum is 8.3.
  • Students on a proper diet and exercise program perform better in school.
  • Around 1 in 10 Idaho students are obese.

These figures tell us that we need to do more about the childhood obesity epidemic; to think of creative ways that get students active and educated about nutrition.  The High Five Children’s Health Collaborative powered by the Blue Cross of Idaho, along with Saint Alphonsus, teamed up to get started on the problem last year.  We introduced GoNoodle, an interactive classroom brain break activity designed to get kids up and moving right at their desks.  Thus far, the program has logged nearly 1,000,000 minutes of student activity, and continues to grow.

We’re committed to combating childhood obesity – and you can be, too.  We all can think about everyday solutions to help.  Make your voice heard at school board meetings.  Teach your children about proper diet and exercise.  Organize activities that promote being outside.  Take a walk with your family.  These simple actions can create a big difference for the future of our children’s health, and the future of Idaho.

Thanks to Dr. Kelder for his presentation, and thanks to all that attended.

Click here to download Dr. Kelder’s PowerPoint Presentation from the Healthcare Roundtable Event.