Primary Care Health Home: Where the Heart Is

Patient Care Coordination (1)

Mary Patterson-Lawson, L.P.N., Patient Care Coordinator, left, meets with Melanie Chaffin, R.N., Nurse Care Manager, about providing social services for a Primary Care Health Home primary care patient.

Every month, more than 700 patients participate in Swope Health Services’ “Primary Care Health Home” program for primary care.

What is a Primary Care Health Home?

“It means we are the home for our participants to receive their healthcare and assistance with managing their chronic diseases,” said Brittney Hazley, SHS Health Care Home Director. “It’s like having a family member inside SHS.”

The program is open to anyone insured under MO HealthNet, Missouri’s Medicaid program, who have certain diagnoses.

A diagnosis of obesity or diabetes will qualify, as will a combination of any of the following: hypertension, anxiety, depression, tobacco use, asthma or any cardiovascular disease.

The purpose of the program is to help patients live healthier lives, Brittney said.

“We want to understand the patient’s situation so we can find out what they need and provide resources to help,” said Brittney.

That help might include arranging transportation, scheduling appointments, assisting with referrals to specialists, obtaining medical records and coordinating care within and outside of SHS.

Patient Care Coordination (2)

Care coordination is an important part of the Primary Care Health Home program. Here Natalie Myer, R.N., consults with Susan Livengood, M.S.N, R.N., to make sure a patient’s healthcare records are up to date.

The services can include education about chronic conditions for the patient and family, as well as support from a nutritionist, diabetic education program, tobacco cessation program and behavioral health programs.

“We’ll do whatever we can to help the patient take ownership of their healthcare,” Brittney said. “We want patients to be empowered to take control of their health.”

The National Committee on Quality Assurance, a private not-for-profit organization, reports the program is working. In Missouri, rates of hospitalization and emergency room visits have declined by 14 percent and 19 percent, respectively, for patients in the program, and patients are demonstrating better management of their chronic conditions.

For example, between 2012 and 2015, the percentage of patients with diabetes who had controlled blood glucose levels increased to 61 percent, from 18 percent, according to a report on Missouri healthcare homes.

SHS has offered the program since 2012 and is now planning to expand the initiative to its satellite clinics. Once patients enroll in the program, they are encouraged to stay in touch at least monthly with their care team, which includes three Nurse Care Managers, a Patient Care Coordinator, a Behavioral Health Consultant and the Director.

“We work on building rapport and trust,” said Brittney. “We want to make it easier for our patients to manage their chronic conditions.”

It’s time for your flu shot!

flu season

From left, Sheila Shipley, Infection Control Nurse, and Bobby Mickens, Interim Director of Nursing and Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, encourage you to get a flu shot. Call for an appointment or ask your provider during your next visit.

Welcome to October! It’s the time for cooler mornings, sunlight angling through the trees, even a bit of fog in the early hours.

It’s also time to get ready for flu season.

Experts say October is the best time to get your annual flu shot because you want to be vaccinated before the virus is circulating widely.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend getting a flu shot between October and the end of the year.

At Swope Health Services, we’re ready!

“Getting a vaccine means you’ll have a better chance of avoiding the flu, missing work or school, and spreading the illness to others around you,” said Bobby Mickens, Interim Director of Nursing at SHS.

“I’m encouraging everyone to get a flu shot,” she said. “It’s a good prevention measure for everyone. And the more people who get the shot, the more protection we have to avoid spreading illness to the people who are more vulnerable to flu complications.”

Most health insurance programs cover flu vaccinations.

So what are you waiting for? Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment or visit any of the SHS locations for a walk-in appointment.

Myths about the Flu Vaccine

Sheila Shipley, Infection Control Nurse, spends a lot of time debunking myths about the flu and the flu vaccine. Here are the most common ones:

  1. The flu shot will make me sick.

The vaccination is not made with a live virus so it can’t make you sick. It takes the vaccine about two weeks to become effective and provide protection, so it is possible you can be exposed to the flu and get sick during that period. That’s why it’s important to be vaccinated before the flu is widespread in the community.

Also, after the shot, some people may have soreness in their arm, a low-grade fever or achy feeling.  That’s normal, and to address it, she recommends exercising the sore arm and taking either Tylenol or Motrin for the fever and aches.

  1. I’m allergic to eggs so I can’t get a shot.

The vaccine is safe even for people with egg allergies. Most people with egg allergies are still able to eat foods made with eggs, and so would not have an allergic reaction to the vaccine. People with serious allergic reactions to eggs are monitored after receiving the flu shot.

  1. I’m healthy and the flu is nothing more than a bad cold. I don’t need a shot.

Healthy people can get the flu. If you haven’t had it before, consider yourself lucky! But even if the flu affects you with only mild symptoms, you should remember that you are still carrying the virus and potentially spreading it to others who may be more vulnerable.

“In patients whose health is compromised, the flu can be truly life threatening,” she said. “They can be susceptible to pneumonia and other complications leading to death. Every year, thousands of people die from the flu.”

New Specialty Clinic Opens! Cardiology and GI Specialists Now at SHS

Swope Health Services has opened a new Specialty Clinic to provide patients with easier access to specialists in diseases of the heart and digestive system.

The Specialty Clinic at SHS Central launched in mid-June with service on Wednesdays each week for cardiology and gastrointestinal (GI) referral patients. SHS providers refer patients to the clinic for diagnosis and care of their special needs.

According to SHS records, in 2016, 700 patients with heart disease received care at an SHS clinic and more than 1,400 patients were referred to a GI specialist. Providing the specialist services directly at the SHS Central facility will remove barriers and make it easier for patients to get the care they need, said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, SHS Chief Medical Officer and a pediatrician.

“Many of our patients lack options for specialty care,” said Dr. Thomas. “The new clinic gives us a way to help these patients by making it easier and more convenient to access specialists. Our hope is that this new service improves their overall health and quality of life.”

SHS provides all registration support, clinical support staff, exam rooms, supplies and equipment for the specialists. For patients, there is no change to the normal process for registering, scheduling and qualifying for co-payments through insurance, Medicaid or Medicare or sliding fee discounts.

The specialists in heart and digestive system health come to SHS through a partnership with University Physicians Associates and Truman Medical Center (TMC).

In addition to the specialists, TMC will also offer financial counseling services at SHS for patients who are referred to TMC for any reason. The counselors will help patients determine if they are eligible for medical coverage assistance programs and provide assistance with registration at TMC.  The goal is to make those referrals easier for SHS patients, speeding access to TMC hospital care.

The SHS Specialty Clinic is located in newly renovated space on the first floor of SHS Central, just to the right of the main lobby. The clinic is equipped with three exam rooms, a lobby and reception area and a provider office.

Join us at 4 p.m., Wednesday, July 26 for our grand opening celebration in the lobby at SHS Central. We’ll have refreshments and an opportunity to tour the clinic and meet representatives from Truman Medical Center and SHS.


SHS Peer Group Supports Chronic Disease Self-Management


From left, Dr. Patty Rebeck with peer counselors Stephanie Greer and Tyrone Ferguson at a recent counseling meeting.

Sometimes, we all need a little help from a friend.

With that idea in mind, SHS Health Care Home for Primary Care has launched a Peer Advisory Group to provide support for patients learning to manage a chronic disease.

The group meets 1:30 to 3 p.m. every Thursday in the Building C office of Dr. Patricia Rebeck, licensed clinical psychologist and Behavioral Health Consultant. The meetings are open to any adult patients enrolled in Health Care Home for Primary Care.

“We’re inviting patients to come in and talk with people who’ve been in their shoes,” Dr. Rebeck said. “Our peer advisers are willing to share what they’ve been through. Their testimonials have more impact than I could.”

The discussions might cover topics like taking medications regularly, changing to a healthier diet or developing – and sticking with – an exercise plan. The program is designed to support patients dealing with diabetes, obesity, asthma and other chronic conditions or diseases.

“If you see that others can do it, you are more likely to believe that you can, too,” Dr. Rebeck said.

Peer counseling is not a new idea. It is well established that we rely upon recommendations and advice from peers, believing that we see a reflection of ourselves in others like us, Dr. Rebeck said. Brittney Hazley and Joan Uta of Health Care Home-Primary Care also support the peer counseling programs as part of the array of services available.

The program launched last fall, just after a similar program for ex-prison inmates achieved a milestone of success.

In that program, former inmates gather to provide support to others who are re-entering society. The group named itself “Focus and Refocus,” which is a kind of code for how participants can control their thinking and support each other to maintain a positive perspective.

The group developed a website and a brochure, part of a larger mission to share their voices with the community. One member of the group, Tyrone Ferguson, delivered a presentation titled “How We Want You to Help Us,” to 215 attendees at the Missouri Corrections Association/Missouri Probation & Parole Officers Association conference in September at the Lake of the Ozarks.

“This is a testament to self-efficacy,” said Dr. Rebeck. “There’s power in believing in yourself and in seeing others believe in you.”

Dr. Rebeck noted that the peer advisory discussions are informal and down-to-earth. One patient was discouraged by obesity, which made her feel ugly and unwilling to be seen in public. But in one meeting, she learned that others in the group found her interesting, and that gave her “a burst of willingness” to try to live, Dr. Reback said.

“Our members each care about helping others,” she said.  “It helps you take care of yourself when you know you have value. We all need a reason to get up in the morning.”

Learn more about the Focus and ReFocus support group at its website. Or contact SHS at (816) 922-1070).

Focus graphic


The Top 10 Early Warning Symptoms of Parkinson’s Disease

NPF-4CThe Heartland chapter of the National Parkinson Foundation wants to help you find answers about Parkinson’s disease.

What is Parkinson’s disease?
It is a disorder that slowly causes degeneration in the brain, resulting in symptoms including tremors, slowness of movement, trouble with balance, stiffness, mood changes and sleep disorders.  Over time, a person with Parkinson’s can lose the ability to control their movements, body and emotions.

The disease continues its development over years, and while there is no cure, medication and therapy are used to treat its symptoms.

Parkinson's logoThere are more than 10 million people worldwide living with Parkinson’s. More than 60,000 Americans are diagnosed with Parkinson’s each year, but experts believe thousands of cases go undetected.  Treatment can lessen the impact of the disease.

That’s why it is important to know the early warning symptoms of Parkinson’s:

  1. Tremor or shaking, usually in the hand, finger, chin or lip. It could include twitching in legs or arms.
  2. Small handwriting, or changes in the way you write, usually crowding letters and words together or shrinking the size of your writing.
  3. Loss of smell. It may start with missing specific scents, like pickles, bananas and licorice.
  4. Trouble sleeping, often with thrashing, kicking or punching while asleep.
  5. PD-Info-403Stiffness in arms and legs, making it harder to walk and move.
  6. Constipation and straining to have a bowel movement.
  7. A soft or low voice. You might think others are having trouble hearing, but your voice might be changing to a hoarse or quieter level.
  8. A masked face. This is often referred to as having a serious or depressed look, or a blank stare.
  9. Dizziness or fainting. Feeling dizzy upon standing can be tied to low blood pressure, which is linked to Parkinson’s.
  10. Stooping or hunching over, or leaning or slouching rather than standing straight.

If you recognize any of these symptoms, talk with your doctor. People with Parkinson’s who receive expert care have better outcomes with fewer complications. Parkinson’s affects all aspects of life and can impact your family and caregivers, too.


IMG_3925The Heartland Chapter of the Parkinson Foundation, a non-profit organization, is hosting a symposium called “Caring for the Caregiver,” from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, April 22, at the Johnson County Community College. The fee is $15 for general admission, and continuing education credits are available for an additional fee. Contact the Heartland Chapter (913-341-8828) to make a reservation or learn more.

James Parkinson: The Doctor Who Discovered the Disease

In 1817, an English physician named Dr. James Parkinson wrote an article called “An Essay on the Shaking Palsy,” which described the six cases he had observed in his own practice in London. He encouraged others to study the disease as a medical condition and to share information to help in its diagnosis and treatment.

Dr. Parkinson was not the first to note the disease. In medical history, there are descriptions of the condition in the Bible, in ancient Egyptian papyrus documents and in 10th century BC Indian medical texts. The famous physician Galen wrote about tremors, lack of movement and other symptoms in AD 175.

But Dr. Parkinson was the first to document it so carefully, describing the characteristic resting tremor, abnormal gait and posture, and diminishing muscle strength and control. Around 60 years after he published his essay, other doctors recognized the importance of his work and named the disease after him. Naming the disease helped differentiate it from other conditions involving tremors or similar symptoms.

Since then, research focused on understanding the symptoms of the disease and learning how it progresses. The Parkinson’s Foundation was formed in 1957 to assist people with the disease and to encourage additional research.  Those efforts continue today with research in the United States and around the world.

Sources:, Parkinson’s Disease Foundation, Wikipedia History of Parkinson’s disease

Seven Tips to Take Care of Your Kidneys!

Kidney Month

Most of us have two kidneys, each about the size of a fist, located on either side of the spine at the lowest level of the rib cage.

Kidney ImageThe kidneys are powerful chemical factories that:

  • Remove waste products from the body
  • Remove drugs from the body
  • Balance the body’s fluids
  • Release hormones that regulate blood pressure
  • Produce an active form of vitamin D that promotes strong, healthy bones
  • Control the production of red blood cells

Each kidney has a million tiny filters called “nephrons.” The nephrons filter and return to the bloodstream about 200 quarts of fluid every 24 hours. About two quarts are removed from the body in the form of urine, and about 198 quarts are recycled.

If your kidneys don’t work, waste builds up in your blood and makes you sick, resulting in either Acute Renal Failure (ARF) or Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD).

Risk factors for kidney disease include:

  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure
  • Being 60 years or older
  • Having a family member with kidney disease, diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Being African American/Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, American Indian or Alaska Native

People with risk factors should get tested regularly. Tests to find kidney disease include:

  • A simple urine test called ACR (albumin-to-creatinine ratio). Protein in the urine is a sign of kidney disease.
  • A simple blood test to estimate your GFR (glomerular filtration rate), which measures how well your kidneys are working.

Our Chronic Disease Educator Rosemary Griffith offers seven tips for keeping your kidneys healthy: 

  1. Hydrate.  It’s always a good idea to drink four to six glasses of water every day.
  2. Eat healthy foods. Your kidneys can tolerate a wide range of dietary habits.  Most kidney problems arise from other medical conditions like high blood pressure and diabetes. Because of this, you should follow healthy, moderate eating habits to control weight and blood pressure. Preventing diabetes and high blood pressure will help keep your kidneys in good condition.
  3. Exercise regularly. Regular physical activity can stave off weight gain and high blood pressure.
  4. Supplements

    Supplements are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration.

    Use caution with supplements and herbal remedies. Excessive amounts of certain vitamin supplements and some herbal extracts may be harmful to your kidneys. Talk to your doctor about any vitamins and herbs you are taking or plan to take.

  5. Quit smoking. Smoking can damage blood vessels, which decreases the flow of blood in the kidneys. When the kidneys don’t have adequate blood flow, they can’t function at optimal levels. Smoking also increases the risk of high blood pressure as well as the risk of kidney cancer.
  6. Don’t overdo over-the-counter (OTC) medications. Common non-prescription pills like ibuprofen and aspirin can cause kidney damage if taken too regularly over a prolonged period.
  7. If you’re at risk, get regular kidney function screening. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, talk to your physician about a screen for kidney dysfunction as part of routine care.

Do you have risk factors for kidney disease? Come in for a check-up. Call 816-923-5800 for an appointment.

Fear of Diabetes Drives This Patient to Get Healthy

Russ Sovern

Russ (center) weighs nearly 400 pounds at his heaviest.

Russ Sovern is the first to admit he was in denial about his diabetes for a long time.

“I weighed close to 400 pounds, I mostly ate fast food and I never exercised,” said Russ. “Yes, I was afraid to hear what a doctor would say.”

Russ had been in a car accident about twenty years ago that had left him with painful back issues. He has been on disability ever since but remained medically uninsured.

“I should have tried harder to come back from the accident, but instead I let the health issues build up,” said Russ. The weight gain exacerbated his back injuries and strained his knees. He grew increasingly lethargic, needed a walker to get around and found himself easily out of breath.

But the one thing he was truly afraid of was diabetes. “A family member lost both of her legs to diabetes and I didn’t want that to happen to me,” said Russ.

In 2014, his brother, Gene, told Russ he was recently diagnosed with diabetes.

“He had one of those diabetes test kits with him, so I took the test,” said Russ. “My blood sugar was way high. There was no hiding from it anymore.”

Gene, who is also uninsured, told Russ he found a good clinic called Swope Health West and he really liked the provider, Mandy Lueck.  So, Russ made an appointment with Mandy in May 2014.

“He had very high blood sugar levels and I had to put him on several medications,” said Mandy, Nurse Practitioner. “I also encouraged him to change his diet and to start exercising. Just walking would make a positive difference.”


Now at 273 pounds, Russ feels much healthier as he poses with his wife, Nancy (left) and Mandy Lueck at Swope Health Independence.

Russ took Mandy’s advice to heart and started making some lifestyle changes. “I hadn’t been in a grocery store for years,” said Russ. “I was on a steady diet of McDonalds, pizza and other fast food.”

Now, Russ is on the high-fiber, low-carb Mediterranean diet and walks daily. “My walker pretty much stays in the corner now,” said Russ. “I don’t run out of breath anymore. I don’t have to sit down half-way through my destination anymore. I can make it to wherever I’m going.”

At his last weigh-in with Mandy in January 2017, Russ had shed 98 pounds.

“Mandy has helped me so much,” said Russ. “And, even though Mandy has moved to the Independence clinic, I’m still coming to see her. In fact, she sees a lot of my family!”

“It’s true,” said Mandy, “I see ALL of the Soverns now!”

Have you been putting off your healthcare? Why not visit with a provider at Swope Health Services for a checkup and tips for healthier living? Call for an appointment – 816-923-5800.

New SHS Specialty Clinic Coming This Spring!

Tyesha and Siera

Tyesha Smith, M.A., left, and Siera Williamson, M.A., in the reception area at the new SHS Specialty Clinic.

Swope Health Services will open a new Specialty Clinic this spring to provide patients with easier access to specialists in diseases of the heart and digestive system.

The Specialty Clinic is at SHS Central. SHS providers will refer patients to the clinic for diagnosis and care of their special needs. The clinic will be staffed with specialists under contract with SHS.

“This is a way for us to remove barriers for our patients,” said Dr. Kenneth Thomas, SHS Chief Medical Officer and a pediatrician. “Our patients need these services but many face socio-economic or psychological barriers. We’re working to eliminate barriers.”

Dr. Thomas noted many patients lack options for specialty care. The new clinic gives SHS a way to help these patients with easier access to specialists, with a goal of improving health outcomes.

The Specialty Clinic is located in newly renovated space on the first floor of SHS Central, just to the right of the main lobby. The clinic is equipped with three exam rooms, a lobby and reception area and a provider office.

Dr. Thomas envisions the clinic as the first step in expanding SHS’s scope of care. He noted the clinic could ultimately house echocardiogram and other medical devices for specialty testing and diagnoses. In the future, the clinic may also provide space for special events or targeted patient outreach such as HIV testing, immunizations or back-to-school checkups.

If you have chronic heart disease or digestive issues, this is a good time to come in for a check-up and possible referral to the specialists. Call 816-923-5800 to schedule an appointment.

It’s Time To Think About Your Heart

heartFebruary is full of reminders about love – there’s Cupid with his bow and arrow and the color red splashed on just about everything.

There’s even National Wear Red Day, February 3, just to remind you to think about your heart.

Did you know heart disease…

  • is the No. 1 killer of women, causing 1 in 3 deaths each year?
  • strikes more women than men?
  • kills more women than all forms of cancer – combined?

The American Heart Association estimates 80 percent of all cardiovascular disease may be preventable.

Bobby Mickens, Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner and Director of Women’s Services, says misconceptions about heart disease, especially in women, can lead to disastrous consequences. Symptoms for women can be subtle and might go unrecognized — shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back or jaw pain.

“There are choices you can make to keep your heart healthy,” says Bobby. Here are a few of her tips and recommendations:

  • Learn more about your family’s history of heart disease. This is important because your risk for heart disease is strongly linked to your family history. Know who suffered from it and who may have passed away because of it and at what age.
  • Come in for a wellness exam. A well-woman exam includes an assessment of your physical health – your cholesterol, body-mass index, blood sugar, weight and blood pressure. Combined, those results can assess your risks of heart disease or stroke.
  • Build a “get healthy” plan with your healthcare provider. There are things you can do to improve your health, such as taking steps to stop smoking, increasing your amount of exercise, eating healthier and controlling blood pressure and diabetes.

“We have programs to help with every step of your healthcare plan, to help you achieve optimal health,” said Bobby. “Let’s work together to get healthier.”


Why not take the first step today?  Call 816-923-5800 to schedule your well-woman appointment.

Resolve to Stop Smoking: We Can Help

stopsmokingIf your New Year’s resolution is to quit smoking, Swope Health Services is here to help.

SHS stands ready to help you break your smoking habit with Certified Tobacco Treatment Specialists and tobacco cessation groups.

SHS tobacco cessation program is open to all with a referral from your SHS provider.

The groups are led by behavioral health associates certified as Tobacco Treatment Specialists through Mayo Clinic – Rochester and the American Lung Association’s Freedom From Smoking® program.

The Freedom From Smoking® program offers a structured, systematic approach to quitting, and its positive messaging emphasizes the benefits of better health. The program uses methods designed to help smokers gain control over their behavior.

“We know there is no single way to quit that is effective for all smokers,” said Grace Okonta, Supervisor, Outpatient Community Psychiatric Rehabilitation Program. “Our program has a variety of techniques – nicotine replacement therapy, medication, counseling and support.”

The curriculum also includes the latest research about nicotine replacement therapy, covering gum, inhalers, patches, lozenges and nasal spray and other smoking cessation medications.

This program was first developed by the American Lung Association more than 35 years ago. Since then, it has helped hundreds of thousands of American end their addiction to nicotine and begin healthier, smoke-free living.


Is it YOUR time to quit smoking? Contact your SHS provider to enroll – call (816) 923-5800 for an appointment.