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August 05, 2015
By Laura Long
An initiative launched by Goodland Regional Medical Center soon after the hospital became a member of the Midwest Cancer Alliance (MCA), the outreach division of The University of Kansas Cancer Center, is now playing a role in improving the health and well-being of people all over Kansas.
"When we joined the MCA in 2008, it meant we could use the interactive televideo equipment in Goodland to connect our cancer patients with oncologists at KU Cancer Center," said Tina Goodwin, a former Goodland Regional Medical Center marketing director. "But we wondered if we could do even more for patients with the technology."
A year after joining MCA, the staff at the medical center asked if the interactive television (ITV) technology could also be used to provide monthly education programs led by health experts to community members in northwest Kansas who might not otherwise have access to that service.
"We thought it was a terrific idea and wanted to do whatever we could to help make it happen," said MCA's director of outreach, Brooke Groneman.
MCA began to research possible partnerships with health and wellness experts who could provide programs that would benefit Goodland Regional Medical Center's cancer patients and others with chronic diseases. In previous years MCA staff had partnered with Turning Point: The Center for Hope and Healing, a Kansas City-based program which helps families prepare for the physical, emotional, and psychological changes brought on by serious or chronic physical illness. Because of its staff of health experts and extensive roster of programs on wellness topics like Tai Chi, sleep habits and pain management, Turning Point seemed like an ideal fit for Goodland.
Within a few months, Groneman finalized arrangements with Turning Point, ironed out technology issues with ITV colleagues at the University of Kansas Medical Center and coordinated scheduling details with Goodland Regional Medical Center. By 2010, Goodland was using ITV technology to provide monthly wellness programs to residents in and around Sherman County.
"It's been great to be able to offer informational programs on topics like stress management and exercise for many of the patients I work with," said Goodland nurse practitioner Jackie Jorgenson.
As the crowds attending the monthly program grew, MCA began to explore the possibility of providing the same services in some other communities where the MCA's 21 members were located. Over the next two years, MCA hospitals in Salina, Pittsburg, Hays and Great Bend began offering the programs in their regions. By that time, Turning Point had become part of The University of Kansas Hospital.
According to Via Christi Pittsburg's cancer program coordinator, Lisa Lovell, the ITV programs have been an effective way to help patients in southeast Kansas experience specialized health information that is not typically available in their community. Lovell said that some of the most popular programs in the region have been on how to manage pain naturally with exercises like Jin Shin Jyutsu, and learning the best ways to keep your mind active and sharp as you age.
Decatur Health Systems in Oberlin, Kansas, began presenting the ITV programs in 2014. Jeremy Gaster, an IT specialist at Decatur Health Systems, helped set up the equipment and works with staff and volunteers to promote the events to the community.
"We started off with four participants but we've had close to 20 at our last few programs," Gaster said.
Charlotte Meints of Oberlin, Kansas, is one of the Decatur Health Systems volunteers who has been helping to get the word out about the ITV health programs. Meints started out by distributing flyers and then decided to call friends and talk with local business and acquaintances about each of the programs.
"I've been so impressed by the professionalism of the presenters," said Meints. "The physician who specialized in better sleep habits was so informative and helpful that we had people asking questions 30 minutes past the time it was scheduled to end."
The program in Oberlin is now drawing residents from neighboring Norton county and even visitors from Nebraska.
"It's so great to hear that an idea that started here in Goodland has grown to help so many people," said Rae Stewart, the new marketing director at Goodland. "We're working on ways to encourage even more people on our end of the state to attend."
With MCA member locations in six different regions of Kansas offering the monthly programs, the little idea that started in the northwest corner of the Sunflower State is now helping hundreds of rural Kansans learn about ways to manage and improve their health.