LEWISTOWN - Geisinger Lewistown Hospital recently held a health summit to discuss the findings of a broad range Community Needs Assessment study.
Kay Hamilton, hospital president and CEO, said hospitals are required to do community needs assessments. However, Geisinger Lewistown took their portion a step further and expanded the scope of their study to include results of several other agencies.
The goals on the health care portion of the assessment are to improve health care quality, improve primary care access and affordability and reduce lifestyle diseases.
Hamilton said there are a lot of stakeholders the hospital continues to work closely with in the community, including the Mifflin-Juniata United Way.
Marie Mulvihill, Executive Director of Mifflin-Juniata United Way, said the community needs assessment takes into account a lot of data with an overall focus on income, education and health.
Mulvihill said the access and quality of health care in a community is one of the most important aspects of keeping people healthy.
One of things Mulvihill encourages people to do is "take a buddy with you" when you go to the doctor, especially if you are very sick, because you may not understand what the doctor is telling you. A buddy can make sure you get all the information you need and can help you ask questions when you don't understand something.
Phyllis Mitchell, Vice President of Marketing and Community Affairs with the hospital said there are resources available for people that teach them how to communicate better with their doctor. Asking questions about your diagnosis, treatments and medications can improve the quality, safety and effectiveness of your health care.
With the recent designation of a Federally Qualified Health center, Mulvihill hopes this will help lower income people to start to think about preventive care, rather than just going to the emergency room when they become really sick.
The Lewistown Community Health Center partnered with the Primary Health Network in Lewistown accepts all patients regardless of their insurance or financial status. They offer a sliding fee scale to all income eligible uninsured or under-insured people.
In addition, an Urgent Care Clinic will open this spring where the former Blockbuster video store was located in the Greater Lewistown Plaza. The clinic will be for those patients who need to see a doctor right away, but it may not be an "emergency."
Hamilton said this may help alleviate some of the pressure on the ER at the hospital.
Hamilton said this just another of example of improving the access to health care in the community.
Mulvihill said promoting healthy lifestyles is another big component of the community needs assessment, which includes tackling things like obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
Mitchell said a resource guide for the community is being put together, so people can reach out to different agencies for help in combating things like childhood obesity and tobacco use.
"A lot of times people just don't know the services available," Hamilton said.
Hamilton said that after the study is completed the hospital is required to make it available to the general public. The assessment is available on the hospital website, along with other resources for the public on a variety of health care related issues, including the Affordable Care Act.