For employees with chronic conditions, livingwellCARES can be a lifesaver

livingwellcares

Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital employee Maureen Jordan (left), received help and support managing diabetes through the livingwellCARES program. In 2016, she rode 31 miles in the American Diabetes Association's 2016 Tour de Cure with livingwellCARES manager Stacey Lane, RN.


Maureen Jordan had always taken care of herself – eating well, exercising, maintaining a healthy weight and living a full, active life.

Several years ago, she began experiencing fatigue, weight loss, blurred vision and other symptoms that became so severe, she took a leave from her job as a certified recreational therapist at Yale New Haven Psychiatric Hospital. She was ultimately diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, put on medication and given basic information. Jordan wanted to know more, so in 2012, she enrolled in Yale New Haven Health System's pilot livingwellCARES program, designed to help employees and their family members manage diabetes. Stacey Lane, RN, Jordan's first livingwellCARES care coordinator, educated her about diabetes, helped her manage the disease, taught her self-care and connected her with a dietitian and other resources.

That livingwellCARES pilot was so successful, it has expanded to cover high blood pressure, asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, congestive heart failure, certain musculoskeletal conditions and other chronic health issues. The program, for employees and their adult dependents covered by YNHHS' medical benefits plan, now has more than 800 participants system-wide.

Program staff include four registered nurse care coordinators, five health coaches and a registered dietitian. They provide, at no cost to participants, ongoing education, help managing chronic conditions and referrals for counseling and other support. The program is confidential; individual participants' information is not shared with the health system.

"People want to be well and make changes that will get them there, but they don't always have the support," said Lane, now program manager. "Our staff members empower people to make the changes they need to make."

Jordan's condition improved at first, but when she began declining again Lane referred her to another physician for a second opinion. This time, Jordan was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes, not type 2. She was put on an insulin pump and received more assistance from livingwellCARES.

About 85 percent of livingwellCARES participants have diabetes and need help making lifestyle changes. Participants might meet with their nurse care coordinator and health coach once a week initially, then less often, depending on their needs. Visits can be conducted in person, by phone or electronically, at times convenient to participants. Since cost can be a barrier to proper care, participants receive reduced or waived co-pays for certain medications.

The program's primary goal is to help employees and their family members improve their health and well-being, but livingwellCARES has also lowered costs for participants and the health system. Studied over a two-year period, data suggest a cost savings of $6 million to $7 million. In addition, participants had about half the number of emergency department visits as non-participants, significantly fewer hospital admissions and, when they were admitted, substantially fewer days in the hospital.

With the help of livingwellCARES staff, Jordan was able to return to work, travel and start biking again.

LivingwellCARES staff "stuck by me until I was in a better place," Jordan said. "It sounds dramatic to say this, but I credit them and this program with saving my life."

To learn more, call 1-888-533-3742, or visit the program on the employee intranet.