April 27

Stay on top of spring allergies

Allergies_167429662Bless you. Gesundheit. Salud. If you suffer from spring allergies, you’ve heard them all — a lot. As the grass and pollen hit the airwaves, it can be difficult to get allergies under control. Your best bet is to try to stay in front of them with a clear diagnosis and some expert advice on allergy management from the KC Health Care Trust Employee Clinic.

According to WebMD, 58 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies or, as it’s more commonly known, hay fever. The symptoms: runny nose, watery eyes, sneezing, coughing, dark circles under your eyes, even asthma. These symptoms can begin as soon as it warms up in the spring and last through early summer. They are worse on breezy days that stir up the pollen and push it through the air, landing in your nose and causing your histamines to attack what your immune system sees as tiny invaders to your system.

If you suffer these allergy symptoms but have never been officially diagnosed, it’s important to talk to your doctor or nurse practitioner who can recommend your best course of treatment. Whether over the counter or by prescription, they know best which medicines will be most effective for treating your symptoms and can help you strategize a path to better breathing.

More than 2/3 of spring allergy sufferers actually have year-round symptoms, according to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (ACAAI). These symptoms can get especially out of hand in the spring. To better control them, the ACAAI recommends beginning medications two weeks before spring or warmer weather.

In addition to prescription help for allergies, WebMD recommends trying to avoid your main allergy triggers. Here are its tips:

  • Try to stay indoors whenever the pollen count is very high (pollen counts usually peak in the mornings).
  • Keep your doors and windows closed whenever possible during the spring months to keep allergens out. An air purifier may also help.
  • Clean the air filters in your home often. Also, clean bookshelves, vents and other places where pollen can collect.
  • Wash your hair after going outside because pollen can collect there.
  • Vacuum twice a week. Wear a mask because vacuuming can kick up pollen, mold and dust that were trapped in your carpet.

Modern medicine goes mobile

MobileKiosk2_477454975Think of it as a new twist on the old house call, only at work. In an effort to make it more convenient than ever to have access to medical care, the KC Health Care Trust is planning to bring expert advice right to City Hall.

It’s called mobile kiosk telemedicine and is the newest way to have your medical needs met without the hassle of appointments, drive time or waiting rooms. The Mobile Tele-Doc kiosk by Mosaic Life Care telemedicine will be provided to City employees by Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City. If you are covered under any of the City’s Blue Cross plans, you will be able to talk to a doctor or advanced nurse practitioner on a computer monitor for no deductible and no copay.

More details will be available as plans are finalized, but this service will likely be available from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. During the regular workday, you’ll be able to see a provider online for a range of issues, such as minor illnesses and injuries, symptoms from a chronic condition and even general health and wellness concerns.

At the kiosk, you’ll be greeted by a nurse, who will notify the provider (doctor or nurse practitioner) of a patient visit. The nurse will then review your medical history, symptoms and obtain vitals. Within 30 minutes, the virtual provider will appear on the monitor and perform a physical assessment with the nurse’s facilitation. The provider can diagnose, treat and even write or call-in prescriptions. If more information is needed, the provider can also schedule a follow-up visit, test or other treatment for you.

All Mosaic Life Care providers are local—licensed in the state of Missouri—and Mosaic uses secure technology to transmit images and dialogue. The provider is available within 30 minutes of the patient presenting at the mobile kiosk site and the visit generally takes 10 to 15 minutes.

Why use telemedicine?

Telemedicine allows for reliable and convenient visits with trained and certified providers. Some reasons to use the telemedicine kiosk include:

  • I feel like I should probably see a doctor, but can’t really fit it into my over-booked schedule.
  • I’m travelling tomorrow and can’t get away from work.
  • I don’t have transportation today.
  • My doctor’s office is closed and I don’t want to go to an urgent care clinic or hospital.
  • I just moved and don’t know any doctors in my area.

Conditions appropriate for treatment via telemedicine:

  • Mild asthma
  • Minor headaches
  • Sprains, strains
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Bumps, cuts, scrapes
  • Burning with urination
  • Coughs, sore throat, ear and sinus pain
  • Eye swelling, irritation, redness or pain
  • Minor allergic reactions
  • Minor fevers, colds
  • Rashes, minor burns
  • Back pain
  • Chronic medical conditions (diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.)

Conditions not appropriate for treatment via telemedicine:

Telemedicine is not for emergencies. Telemedicine treatment should not be requested for any serious or life-threatening condition, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts or any of the following situations:

  • Seizure
  • Chest pain
  • Neurological symptoms suggesting a stroke
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Dizziness or loss of consciousness
  • Sudden bleeding
  • Choking or gagging
  • Severe vomiting or diarrhea
  • Head injury
  • Possible broken bones
  • Severe headache
  • Severe pain
  • Cancer
  • Patients who want to hurt themselves
  • Patients who want to hurt others
  • Schizophrenia or hallucinations

For the above symptoms or any other serious medical concerns, you should call 911 or proceed to the nearest emergency room.

Improve health step by step: Walk at work on April 29

Walking2_177522213Take the first steps to better health by walking at work on Wednesday, April 29. Get up from your desk and on your feet for a walk at lunch or anytime during the day.

The City is encouraging all employees to find time during the day to walk, and is hoping Walk at Work Day can mark the beginning of a healthy daily activity for them.

Walk at Work Day coincides with National Walk@Lunch Day and is designed to complement—not compete with—busy lifestyles. Created to improve personal health and decrease the costs of healthcare for both employers and employees, National Walk@Lunch Day is an extension of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association’s WalkingWorks program.

KCMO employees who work at or close to City Hall are invited to meet at City Hall for a brisk (30-minute) walk at lunch on April 29. Join your coworkers at 12 noon or 12:30 p.m. for a one-mile walk around downtown Kansas City. For employees who do not work close to City Hall, find time during your day, at lunch or not, to go for a walk.

Studies have found that regular walking, particularly at a brisk pace of 3 miles per hour, can promote health and wellness by substantially reducing your risk for heart disease and other chronic conditions. In fact, here are five great reasons to make walking part of your daily routine.

  1. Walking improves fitness. Even 30 minutes of walking three times each week will increase cardiorespiratory fitness. Plus, walking can help trim your waistline.
  2. Walking boosts your mood. Research shows that walking several times each week, consistently, can alleviate symptoms of depression. A daily walking routine also gives you more energy to do more things that you enjoy.
  3. Walking prevents type 2 diabetes. Walking does more than help you lose fat or maintain weight, it actually helps balance your blood sugar, decreasing your chances of developing diabetes.
  4. Walking makes your heart stronger. Statistics show that walking can dramatically decrease your chance of suffering a heart attack or stroke.
  5. Walking increases bone density. Putting stress on your bones through walking or other strength training actually helps create density to keep them strong and healthy, according to the American Heart Association.

Walking at lunch or during the day is an easy and fun way to begin your own walking routine and manage your health. For more information, contact Jill Monroe, wellness program manager for the Fountain of Health.

Numbers count: Biometric Screenings start May 5

Biometric2_476351321In life, there are certain numbers that you need to know. Remembering an anniversary or birthday can keep you out of hot water with friends and family. Knowing important phone numbers can keep you connected. Recalling your PIN is handy at the ATM. None of these, though, is nearly as important as knowing your blood pressure, your cholesterol ratio or your glucose level. These are the numbers that can be the real lifesavers.

The City of Kansas City, Mo., is offering employees an opportunity to participate in a Biometric Screening that will measure your overall health and wellness by evaluating height, weight, blood pressure, total cholesterol, cholesterol ratio, triglycerides and glucose. There is perhaps no better indicator of wellness than what is revealed in these measurements.

These screenings, which take approximately 10 minutes, are free and will be offered at various times throughout City site locations between May 5 and June 4. No fasting is required to complete your screening.

As part of the Biometric Screening, the City is also offering a Health Risk Assessment (HRA), which is a 120-question self-assessment of your health. Employees can complete the HRA online (between May 1 and June 15) or as part of their on-site screening. It takes approximately 20-30 minutes to complete and is an important piece of the complete picture of your overall health.

Healthy incentive

In addition to the beneficial health information you’ll receive about your well-being, the Kansas City Health Care Trust is once again rewarding employees who complete a Biometric Screening and HRA. By doing both, the Health Care Trust will reduce your health care insurance premiums by $10 each month beginning this fall, for a total savings of $120. You’ll also receive a free Garmin VivoFit (a $99 value!).

Register for an appointment

While an appointment isn’t required, employees are strongly encouraged to make one. Those who have appointments will be given priority at the screenings. There are three ways to make an appointment.

1. Visit A Healthier You at www.MyBlueKC.com. You will be able to view locations, dates and times through your online portal.

  • You will need your Blue KC member ID information located on your member ID card to login to the site for the first time.
  • Be sure to register for your appointment at least 24 hours in advance to secure your appointment.
  • Having trouble? Call A Healthier You at 816-395-2121 between 8 a.m. – 5 p.m., Monday – Friday.

2. To sign-up for an appointment at a location that is using a hardcopy sign-up sheet (see below), you will need to call Jill Monroe at 816-513-1918. Locations with hardcopy sign-ups:

  • Water Services – 1901 Brooklyn
  • Water Services – Blue River
  • Water Services – Briarcliff
  • Public Works – 5300 Municipal
  • Public Works – Russell Road
  • Public Works – Coal Mine Road
  • Parks and Rec – 9th Street

3. An Alternative Means Screening (AMS) Form is also available on your BCBS member portal if you prefer to obtain screening results from your physician or the KC Health Care Trust Employee Clinic.

  • Download the AMS Form from your member portal on www.MyBlueKC.com.
    • If you are a first time visitor to www.MyBlueKC.com, click on Register Now. Have your BCBS member ID card available to reference.
    • Once you’re on the member portal homepage, click Living Healthy at the top.
    • On this page, you can click on the Alternative Means Screening link to open and print the form.
  • Your physician must complete all fields on the form. If any items are left blank or unsigned by your physician, this form will be considered incomplete.
  • Fax the form to 866-698-9924. To receive confirmation of receipt, include your email or phone number on the form.
  • Deadline to submit AMS Forms is June 15.
  • Note: This option is available only between May 1 and June 15.

Unlisted numbers

Federal law prohibits the City of Kansas City, Mo., from receiving health information on individual employees from these screenings, only aggregate data. Your information is confidential.

Your information will be sent to the third-party provider operating the screening events. Under penalty of federal law, the third-party is prohibited from giving the City any person-specific information.