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A caring, team approach gives a Central Point heart patient improved health

Michelle Lee, of Central Point, has her blood pressure under control thanks to the patient-centered primary care from Community Health Center.

Michelle Lee never liked going to the doctor. She says she usually got a lecture about what she was doing wrong.

Then, a couple of years ago, heart pains sent the 38-year-old Central Point resident to the hospital emergency room. After that, she knew she needed regular health care.

Lee found Community Health Center in White City. She was able to get an appointment quickly, which she liked. It made her feel that they really cared.

"They explain things to me. They give me the skills to improve my health. For example — OK, I'm a smoker — but they don't lecture me about it. They tell me what to do to cut down, and it's working," she said. Lee also has high blood pressure, which is now under control with medication and education on ways to reduce stress in her life.

Listening to patients and giving them information, focusing on preventive care, and working together as a care team are all things that earned Community Health Center recognition by the state of Oregon as a Patient-Centered Primary Care Home. They are designated as a Tier 3, the highest level a clinic can achieve. Community Health has clinics in Ashland, Butte Falls, Medford, and White City, and school-based health centers at Eagle Point and Ashland high schools. The center is also part of the new ALLCare Health Plan, Inc., starting in August and the provisionally certified Jackson County Coordinated Care Organization, LLC, scheduled to start in September.

Community Health's Medford clinic is even finishing construction on a new building designed to be patient-centered using the team approach to care.

John Forsyth, M.D., a volunteer cardiologist, said the new design, which allows members of each care team to work side-by-side, has been "a real eye opener to me.

"I was writing a note, the phone rang and we all heard that it was a woman having arrhythmia of the heart. The social worker chimed in that the woman on the phone was also having some stressful family issues. Then the nurse said she had seen the woman recently and she had complained of chest discomfort. In 30 seconds we had arrived at what was needed for the patient. We told the appointment scheduler to get her in as soon as possible. A lot of good comes out of a team and patient-centered approach," he said.

Michelle Lee agrees that the patient-centered approach works.

"My health seems better. I have more energy. I just feel happier when I wake up each morning. I feel good about my health," she said.