Marching in place

Published 2:25 pm Tuesday, August 11, 2020

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By Michelle Fortune

Healthcare Umbrella

I have learned some things about myself this summer.

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Amidst the pandemic, I have learned how much I miss hugging friends and neighbors, experiencing the firm grip of a friendly handshake and packing a group of people into a crowded room to brainstorm and share ideas. It is difficult to break these norms that are such a part of who I am.

I have also learned that I hate running on a treadmill. Due to busy schedules or weather, I haven’t been able to get all my outdoor runs completed easily and have considered the indoor treadmill as an alternative. I have been less than enthusiastic about this proposition. Why? Well, I dislike the sensation of running in place because it feels a bit deflating to put in extraordinary effort only to end up in the same spot.

I was recently interviewed by a regional publication regarding St. Luke’s battle against Covid-19. They commented on the extensive progress we have made serving our community during a pandemic. The interviewer made one remark that stayed with me, “One thing is for certain, you all are not marching in place.”

Following the interview, I realized how right he was. We never march in place at St. Luke’s. Our team works constantly to grow our services, raise the level of care we provide, improve the ways we deliver care and transparently communicate with you everything related to our community hospital.

Over the past year, we have focused diligently on both launching new services and improving services we currently provide. Last week, I shared information with you about our Steps to Home program, which provides short-term care for individuals who are regaining their strength after an illness or injury, so they may safely return home.

Today, I want to share another success story with you about the growth and development of our Medicaid Community Alternatives Program (CAP). The North Carolina Medicaid CAP program is a program for adults with disabilities who are at risk for institutionalization. A limited number of people in our state are approved to receive these services via Medicaid, and St. Luke’s is pleased to serve beneficiaries in Polk County.

The intent of the CAP program in North Carolina is to provide individuals who have a physical or mental disability (resulting in a need for the level of care often provided in a nursing home) to have an alternative to institutional placement. Individuals who qualify for the CAP program can remain in their homes or the residence of a friend or family member and receive medical and personal care services that allow them to remain autonomous.

Our goal over the past year has been to ensure that we are providing CAP services to the full number of qualifying residents we are approved to serve and to ensure that our organization covers the cost of the care we provide. In the past, this has been a challenge for us, and we were struggling to meet these goals when we began our improvement journey last year.

Several leaders and teammates were involved in our transformational efforts of the CAP Program here at St. Luke’s. First, we modified the structure of the CAP Program and linked it to our Case Management Department with the same nurse leader responsible for both areas. The CAP team worked diligently to accommodate patients, scheduled to ensure appropriate access to care, and confirmed proper documentation and billing for services. Soon, we were serving the full number of patients possible for us to be able to successfully assist the patients and cover the cost of providing this very important care. This would certainly be enough work to highlight that the CAP team is not marching in place, however, it gets even better.

A few weeks ago, we had a survey of this program from the regulatory oversight body. We received our report, and the program had zero deficiencies! This cost effective, high quality care is an advancement for a program that is serving individuals right here, close to home.

Should you or a loved one have a question about the CAP Program at St. Luke’s, you may contact their office at 828-894-0564.

There is much more to St. Luke’s than hospital-based services, and we hope to share, in future columns, more about many of the care solutions we provide. As we continue to march forward with the goal of being the best community hospital for your family’s health, we hope you will join our journey.

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Michelle Fortune can be contacted at