Decked out in Alabama crimson, laboratory manager Arlon Sheffield offered employees coupons for free blood screenings that provide a range of information on a patient’s health.
“It’s a really good opportunity for employees to donate a little blood and we’ll tell them a lot about themselves,” he said.
At the next table down, Auburn fan Carrie Golden, assistant director of radiology, encouraged women to perform breast self-exams and refreshed them on the process.
“A lot of women don’t screen themselves like they should,” she said, picking up a “training module” — a replica that teaches women what a normal breast should feel like. “We’re trying to do these health fairs and try to educate patients when they come in.”
Last Thursday’s event, as well as other attempts to shift the culture surrounding preventive care, was part of an effort to make health and wellness a more social endeavor for the hospital’s staff and the community at large.
“The more we talk about it, the more we encourage each other,” said Kristy Jackson, marketing director at the hospital.
The change is at the intersection of two initiatives: the advent of Alabama Healthy Community at the hospital and a challenge from its board of directors to be out in the community educating individuals about preventive health measures.
The hospital has participated in previous public health fairs, including one at the Quintard Mall in April. Several more are scheduled through October in Heflin, Piedmont and Alexandria.
Alabama Healthy Community is centered on using electronic health records to track patients’ medical histories as well as to provide assessments of what health risks are likely based on that information. The system then provides patients with suggested preventive care screenings and other measures.
At Jacksonville Medical Center, where the local system was initially implemented, 92 percent of employees have signed up. When the results came in, hospital administrators were surprised to learn that 98 employees were due for colonoscopies.
“As CEO, I felt I needed to set the tone for my employees,” said hospital chief Jim Edmondson, one of the 98. He has since had a colonoscopy and, in the spirit of socializing the experience, has talked freely and even written about the procedure in the hospital newsletter.
He said he tries to hold his co-workers accountable as well.
“It’s not the typical thing you say when you walk into work: ‘Had your colonoscopy yet?’” Edmondson said.
Jean Ann McMurrey, chief nurse at the hospital, noted that as an employer, the hospital can’t view individual health records but can ask for group statistics to see where health needs are greatest. She said that as the hospital moves forward in the program, it may move into diagnostics and imaging if the need is there.
McMurrey has herself used the resources from the Alabama Healthy Community health record, including video tutorials on exercise, weight loss and preventing diabetes.
“As a health care provider, you think you should know all that,” she said. “But if you don’t use it, you lose it. It’s a nice refresher.”
An avid runner, Jackson is eagerly awaiting the start of walking groups at the hospital aimed at helping employees encourage one another to exercise. More than 40 individuals had signed up at Thursday’s health fair to participate. Eventually, the walking groups will spread to churches, civic groups and other employers.
So far, 600 individuals have signed up and filled out electronic health records through Alabama Healthy Community. The system has spread to the city of Jacksonville, the Jacksonville City Schools and Jacksonville State University, but is also open to anyone interested in checking out the resources at www.alabamahealthycommunity.com.
The system itself is easy to use, said Jackson. “It shows me on one page everything I need to know,” she said. “Instead of I can’t remember this, I can’t remember that, it’s all there.”
Star staff writer Paige Rentz: 256-235-3564. On Twitter @PRentz_Star.