Thursday, December 15, 2011
Can your physician reach you?

By Dr. Anthony Policastro

There are many things that I need to call patients about. I talk to patients about lab results, X-ray results and prescription changes. Some calls involve return phone calls to answer questions. Other calls involve a need to change an appointment time. Most of them involve things that are important for the patient to know about. However, it is amazing how many times I cannot reach the patient. There are a variety of reasons. The most common is having an incorrect phone number in the medical record. There was a time not too long ago when everyone had a single phone - a home phone. The number did not change until they moved to a new address. That has now changed. Some people no longer use a home phone. They do everything on a cell phone. Some people will frequently change cell phone plans. Some will frequently change cell phone numbers. In most cases, those individuals simply update their list of contacts from their old phones to their new ones. However, there is a need for them to do more than that. One of the things that should accompany any change in phone number is a checklist of people to notify. Physicians offices need to be on that checklist. When you are dealing with your health, it should not be that a simple notification to your doctors office is going to interfere with that. When you go to the physicians office, you are usually asked if any of your information has changed. I would suggest at that time that you check to make sure they have the correct phone number for you. This should happen at each visit. Many medical offices are switching to electronic medical records. Even if your number has not changed, the office records might have changed. In the process all the old phone numbers need to be put into the new system. If you work on the assumption that such a large task will occur without any mistakes in putting in phone numbers, you could be very wrong. Sometimes I will call a patient and have the correct number but cant get through. One reason is that the individual does not have an answering machine. While I realize that not everyone wants an answering machine, it is sometimes the only way we can reach patients. We call during office hours. We call when we have a chance between patients. That might not always coincide with the time that someone is at home. Sometimes I will call and get a message that the individual I am calling has a voice mailbox that has not been set up. Other times I get a message that the individual I am calling has a voice mailbox that is full. Both of these issues are things that the patient must address on their own. There is nothing I can do to help with this. What is even more frustrating is when the patient has called me and left me a return phone number which I cannot get through to. The result is that they call the office back to complain that I never called them. Sometimes when I cannot reach someone it is important I call the number given for emergency contact. Unfortunately, I then have the same set of problems trying to reach someone at the emergency number. Most people are never very far away from their phone in todays world. However, when a doctor is trying to reach them, they could be on the other side of the world without a phone and it would not make a difference since we cannot find them.

Pre-diabetes means life changes According to the 2010 Delaware Behavioral Risk Factor Survey nearly 60,000 Delawareans have diabetes, a leading cause of kidney failure, adult blindness, lower-limb amputations, heart disease and stroke. This chronic disease requires extensive daily management, on-going medical monitoring, and costly, lifelong treatment.An additional 39,000 Delawareans have pre-diabetes, a condition in which a persons glucose level is higher than normal but not high enough for the diagnosis of diabetes. Pre-diabetes is the term for the pre-stage of type 2 diabetes and replaces common terms such as borderline diabetes and the description that a person has a touch of sugar. People with pre-diabetes are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes. Delawareans with diabetes or pre-diabetes can control these conditions or reduce their risk for developing type 2 diabetes through increased physical activity, eating a healthy diet and other lifestyle modifications. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventions National Diabetes Prevention Program, people who made healthy eating choices, increased their physical activity, strengthened coping skills, and benefitted from group support showed a marked reduction in their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes. The Delaware Diabetes Prevention and Control Program offers a statewide six-week free Diabetes Self-Management Program, an evidence-based program developed by Stanford University. In weekly 2 -hour classes, participants learn the importance of eating healthy, getting physically active, taking medications as prescribed, understanding and managing common symptoms, and learning the overall day-to-day skills and tools for managing this chronic disease. For more information on this program or other services, call the Delawares Division of Public Healths Diabetes Prevention and Control Program at 302-744-1020.

Still time to get your flu shot Influenza is not the gift you want to give this holiday season. Unfortunately, many people remain unvaccinated and are therefore open to catching the flu as they move through crowds of shoppers, travelers at rest stops and visit with loved ones. Typically the flu season will peak in January or February, and can last as late as May, said Dr. Karyl Rattay, DPH director. So now is a very good time for those 6 months of age and older to get vaccinated against the flu if they have not already done so. For the 2010-2011 season, DPH administered 5,338 influenza vaccinations. To date for the 2011-2012 season, the total vaccinations administered stands at 3,812.

An annual flu vaccine is recommended for everyone 6 months and older and is available by shot or nasal spray. See your health provider or pharmacy for availability. Those without a primary care provider and/or without medical insurance can contact DPH at 1-800-282-8672. Delaware had 1,470 confirmed cases of flu for the 2010-2011 flu season and 2,247 cases the year before. These numbers probably grossly underrepresent the number ofDelawareans infected with the influenza virus because many people ill with influenza-like symptoms do not seek medical care and those that do may not get tested for influenza. For more information, visit

Jacobs named CEO The board of directors of Harrison Senior Living has selected Michael J. Jacobs as their chief executive officer. Jacobs has a 30-year leadership career in senior services with experience in finance, operations and staff development. He is the recipient of multiple awards while serving in managerial roles in Philadelphia area retirement communities. Jacobs was most recently the president of BHP Services in Philadelphia. He earned his masters of business administration from La Salle University in Philadelphia and his bachelors degree in accounting from Eastern College, St. Davids, Pa.

NAR-ANON support group Take Heart, Be Strong is a support group available to those family members and friends who are concerned about the drug/alcohol addiction of a loved one. We find people in NAR-ANON who understand what we are going through and are ready to share their experience, strength and hope to help us. This group meets at 7 p.m. every Thursday in the Youth Room at Crossroad Community Church, 20684 State Forest Rd., Georgetown. If you are interested or know someone who might be, call Beth at 302-745-0466. This is an anonymous program and there are no obligations. Attendance is welcome with no prior arrangements. For more information and other meeting locations, visit

Relay for Life fundraiser Dr. Marie Wolfgang is again sponsoring a 12 night Winter Getaway Cruise to the Southern Caribbean as a fundraiser for Relay for Life, sailing from Cape Liberty, N.J. on Feb. 10. The itinerary includes St. Thomas, St. Kitts, St. Johns (Antigua), St. Lucia and St. Maarten (Philipsburg). Transportation to and from the dock is available. For a brochure, call or visit Dr. Wolfgangs office at One Cedar Ave. in Seaford, 629-4471. Space is limited.

Bereavement luncheons Delaware Hospices New Beginnings bereavement luncheons are an informal way to meet and talk with others, who have had similar loss experiences. Lunch begins at noon and is followed by a brief program.The location rotates each week of the month throughout Sussex County. New Beginnings luncheons are open to the public. Registration is not required. There is no fee except the cost of your lunch. For more information, call Midge Dinatale or Paul Ganster at 856-7717.

New depression support groups If you have been diagnosed with depression, are currently receiving treatment and need extra support, join the Mental Health Association in Delawares newest depression support groups. The support groups provide a safe and comfortable environment for adults who may be struggling with depressionto find others who may be going through similar experiences, learn coping skills and take back control of their life by being proactive. A support group meets in Seaford every Wednesday from 6 to 7:30 p.m. The location of the meeting is provided only to registered members. To register, contact the Mental Health Association in Delaware at 302-654-6833 or 800-287-6423. These new groups are made possible due to a grant received from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Delawares BluePrints for the Community program.

Breast cancer support group Delaware Breast Cancer Coalition, Inc. (DBCC) has expanded its Beginning Your Pink Ribbon Journey, a program for women newly-diagnosed with breast cancer, by partnering with Nanticoke Memorial Hospital Cancer Center in Seaford. The free, monthly program is offered at the Cancer Center located at 801 Middleford Road, Seaford, the third Thursday of each month from 3 to 4 p.m. To learn more, call Lois Wilkinson at 672-6435. Registration is required and light refreshments and small gifts are provided.

CPR classes at Nanticoke Nanticoke Memorial Hospital will offer community CPR classes to anyone interested in learning CPR at the Nanticoke Training Center located on Water Street in Seaford. Participants will learn how to perform the basic skills of CPR on adults, children, and infants and how to help an adult, child or infant who is choking and use of the AED. This classroom-based, video, and instructor-led CPR course offers families, friends, and community members the opportunity to learn CPR and need a course completion card. Classes are open to participants 12-years-old and up. This program is specifically designed for those who prefer to learn in a group environment with feedback from an instructor. The target audience is those who have a duty to respond to a cardiac emergency because of job responsibilities or regulatory requirements. Cost is $40. Payment and registration is required by no later than five business days prior to the class. Late registrations may be accepted if seating is available. To register and to obtain a listing of class dates/times, contact the Nanticoke Memorial Hospitals Training Center office at 629-6611, ext. 8919. Pre-registration is required.