Taking the Leap — Tobacco Free Living

IAC_8520 copyAbout five months ago the last smoking shack on the Irwin Army Community Hospital campus closed – for good.

Although the ban on smoking in federal government buildings has been in force since 1997, Army Medicine is now taking the next step.

As of June 2015, IACH and its outlying clinics, the Dental Activity and Veterinary Services have banned the use of tobacco on their campuses, including the grassy areas that could be as far as 100 yards away from a medical facility.

In addition, Army Regulation 600-63 published in April 2015 prohibits the use of tobacco by military medical personnel while on duty or in uniform, regardless of location.

“These efforts are part of an Army Medicine leadership campaign to create momentum toward Tobacco Free Living,” said. Col. Paul Benne, the Fort Riley Department of Public Health Chief.

“We have a come a long way from a time when cigarettes were part of Army C-Rations. Over the years hospitals have been reducing the number of smoking shacks. Now we have reached a point where the last smoking shack at IACH has been sealed off,” Benne said.

“Tobacco Free Living not only promotes a healthy environment for patients, visitors and employees of the hospital, it also supports one of the Army’s top priorities – military readiness,” said Benne.

“Oral surgeons indicate that patients who do not use tobacco heal faster. Cardiovascular cases are more common for smokers. Soldiers perform better on a two-mile run after they quit smoking. And that’s only part of the look at the negative effects of tobacco on our Soldiers,” said Benne.

For IACH leadership, “promoting the standard of a tobacco-free environment is consistent with the Army Medicine goal of increasing healthy behaviors,” said Col. Risa Ware, IACH Commander. “Tobacco-free living is part of a larger strategy to improve medical readiness, along with the prevention of drug abuse and excessive alcohol use.”

Tobacco consumption is a key topic because of the high rates of Soldiers who smoke when compared with the general population.

About 18 percent of American adults aged 18 years or older smoke cigarettes compared to 30 percent of Soldiers. Smoking costs the Department of Defense an estimated $1.6 billion a year in medical care through increased hospitalization and missed work days resulting from smoking-related illnesses, said Benne.

“The biggest obstacle to reducing tobacco consumption is our culture. We have to counter it with another way of life – Tobacco Free Living. We start with our medical facilities and our medical personnel,” Benne said.

“Our tobacco-free campus policy has the potential to improve the health of thousands and support the goals of a medically ready force and a healthy resilient community,” said Ware. “Our policy is designed to create a tobacco-free workplace and healthy environment for our patients and visitors. Access to safe, quality care is at the heart of every decision we make.”

Ware said she recognizes the difficulty of quitting and for that reason medical support is available to TRICARE beneficiaries and Medical Department Activity employees. The IACH Army Public Health Nursing Clinic runs a four-week Tobacco Cessation Support Program beginning the first Thursday of every month 11 a.m. – noon, at Caldwell Clinic. It provides group counseling sessions and medication.

Fort Riley employees who are not TRICARE beneficiaries may participate in the coaching and counseling sessions.

Caldwell Clinic is located at Normandy Drive, Building 7665. To enroll in the Tobacco Cessation Support Program, call (785) 239-7323. The next session begins Jan. 7, 2016. Limited seats are available.

No-Shows Hurt Other Patients

Ever had trouble making an appointment when you or your family were sick? It turns out that in many cases there are more than enough appointments available.

Don’t be a no-show. A missed appointment wastes time and resources. And it’s a missed opportunity for other patients.
Don’t be a no-show. A missed appointment wastes time and resources. And it’s a missed opportunity for other patients.

The problem is too many patients fail to cancel their appointments ahead of time. They simply choose not to show up. This means patients who really need to see their provider can’t.

Patients who can’t keep their appointments should free up their time slot and let someone else have a chance to see that provider, says Lillian Goddard, Irwin Army Community Hospital (IACH) Access to Care manager.

“Soldiers, Family members, and retirees who miss appointments cost fellow beneficiaries an opportunity to receive care,” she adds.

In the month of September 1,355 patients missed their appointments, and a total of 14,702 patients missed appointments in Fiscal Year 2015 at IACH alone. Imagine if those appointments had been available for those who really needed them.

“When patients get frustrated that there are no appointments available, we get frustrated too,” Goddard said. “We get frustrated because we know we have a percentage of no-shows and we want to get patients seen.”

Goddard recommends that patients cancel unneeded appointments four hours before a primary care appointment or 24 hours before a specialty care appointment to allow others a chance to use that time.

There are several ways to cancel an appointment. TRICAREOnline.com offers patients a quick option that provides a text confirmation of the cancellation.

Patients also have the option of calling the 24-hour appointment cancellation line at 239-8428 or responding to the Patient Automated Reminder System. However, using the PARS system requires patients to remain on the call until the cancellation has been confirmed.

“Patients often end the call after the prompt to cancel the appointment and they are considered a no-show because it wasn’t confirmed,” Goddard said.

For more information on booking, canceling and receiving appointment reminders through e-mail or text online, visit www.tricareonline.com.

Public Health Reschedules Flu Vaccines

The Fort Riley Department of Public Health (DPH) is rescheduling flu vaccines due to a supply chain delay in the delivery of shipments.

DPH leaders are developing plans to ensure the timely delivery of flu vaccines to the Fort Riley community.

“We are committed to ensuring Fort Riley Soldiers and beneficiaries get the flu vaccine on time before the peak flu season,” said Lt. Col. Yvette Malmquist, Public Health Nursing Chief. “The peak influenza season begins in mid January and runs through the month of February.”

Previously scheduled flu vaccine dates for medical homes and drive-thru in November are now on a To Be Determined (TBD) status.

Deploying Soldiers will receive flu vaccines in accordance with their unit’s readiness schedule. High risk individuals will also be vaccinated following guidance of their primary care provider.

“High risk individuals are defined as infants, young children, pregnant women, patients with immune compromising health conditions, and those aged 50 and older,” said Malmquist.

All Fort Riley Medical Department Activity personnel will get the flu vaccine due to the nature of their health care work environment and as noted in their job descriptions.

Beneficiaries are encouraged to ask their medical team via Secure Messaging Service to see if they fall into the high risk category. They can register at http://app.relayhealth.com and link with their provider for electronic communication.

For the latest information on the flu vaccine, call the DPH Flu Hotline at (785) 240-4FLU.