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Catalina Health Resource, Meet HealthCentral

Submitted by on July 21, 2010 – 3:06 pm11 Comments

Guest Blog by Alli Bush, HealthCentral Site Product Manager

Yesterday was a satisfying day on two levels: the first was that for the first time ever, I was greeted by a driver at Newark airport that was holding a sign that read, “A. Bush.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gotten off a plane and wondered who you had to be to have someone waiting for you with one of those signs. The second satisfying moment, and the more important of the two, was that I was able to preach what I practice: Joined by two blogging all-stars, Ann Bartlett and PJ Hamel, I was invited to talk about the very important, often life-changing things we do here at HealthCentral (that I don’t think we often realize!).

Our very gracious audience included about 70 employees from Catalina Health Resource, who were meeting for a few days in New Brunswick, NJ, for their yearly training seminar. Catalina Health Resource, as described by our exceedingly affable host, Joe Meadows, serves as a conduit between the health consumer and the health product. Their products and solutions focus on patient education and medication education – so, the next time you’re at your local pharmacy and pick up a prescription, be sure to read the little insert that comes with your medication and learn something!

I’ve got to say, one of my most touching moments was when Joe introduced PJ as “a writer, mother, and survivor,” and then how PJ went on to say how she just finished – after nine years – the last of her breast cancer medications. Even though I work with many of these “survivors” every day, I never quite get used to hearing their stories – the fact that these are living, breathing people with very real and complicated lives. For instance, I traveled the whole day – from 6 am until 7 pm – with Ann, and while my only concern was making the plane on time and staying cool in the heat, she had to worry about the rollercoaster sugar levels she was having all day.

Many of the questions we received focused on how industry can better serve the people who need it and why there’s such a disconnect when all of the resources are right here in front of us. It was clear that the audience was hungry for knowledge, and it was clear that there is still much work to be done. For those of you who weren’t there, here are three conclusive tips that I think PJ, Ann and I can agree on: Be honest, be trustworthy, and be there from the beginning, to the middle, and to the very end.

Who in the industry do you see as an untapped resource that could strengthen patient education?

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  • PJ Hamel says:

    Alli, thanks for this engaging summation! I’ve been thinking about yesterday, and the untapped resource that keeps coming to my mind is nurses. They do most of the hands-on work – be it hand-holding through a crisis, to the gentle hands you feel re-wrapping your bandages. They’re present – always. Docs are the necessary talent that direct the show, but they’re often here and gone; nurses are here. And busy as they are, they always seem to have the time to explain, encourage, and empower us to go forth and regain our health. I think nurses can be the conduit between all of the valuable information generated by research and the drug companies on one side; and the end-user/patient on the other. – PJH

  • In your post, you ask, “Who in the industry…?” What industry are you referring to? Do you mean pharma, insurers, or health care groups? I don’t think it will change my answer, but it might give a better context for discussion.

    I think patients(!) are the untapped resource in patient education. As a three time cancer survivor, I agree there are tons of resources available. However, I think patients need help understanding what they are looking for and navigating to this information at times.

    I’d suggest reaching out to patient leaders or health activists throughout a broad spectrum of disease states. By interacting with patient leaders, it would be much easier to identify disconnects and pain points. With a patient’s perspective, more targeted outreach and educational opportunities would become a reality.

    I think it’s a great question and one I’d certainly be willing to help answer for the cancer communities. I’ll watch this space to see how it develops!

  • Alli says:

    Thanks for your comments, PJ and Alicia (Alicia, nice to meet you! I’ve heard great things about you).

    Alicia, how can we activate patient leaders further aside from having them on sites like HealthCentral? Do you see them as professionals working on behalf of hospitals, pharma companies, and doctors to do the educating?

    PJ, what tools do you see nurses needing to be more empowered to take on this role?

  • Ann says:

    With the shrinking number of doctors to handle the increasing load of diabetes patients, the external resources will become very important! Patients seek other patients to learn about living with diabetes and to get a grip on how to handle the issues.

    We need collaborative efforts to pull all the information into a functioning network. We need information for newly diagnosed to those who have trouble getting blood sugars under control to exercise basics like target heart rate and healthy weight, tips on achieving those goals made easy. Other simple things are how to treat low blood sugars how to treat high blood sugars, sick day management. HC downloadables tell you much about what people are seeking and it’s the basic care instructions!

    Many industry partners have information in place, but for patients it’s not clear who to trust. So the question becomes how to partner the pieces together?

  • Lisa Emrich says:

    Interesting questions Alli.

    I agree that educated and activated patients represent a vast untapped resource. What we do at HealthCentral (speaking for myself) is very much one-on-one when it comes to helping to educate and guide other patients looking for answers and support. Of course, our posts reach a wider audience than one, but responding to specific needs remains very much individualized.

    Imagine technology which might be able to present answers to questions which a patient may not have known to ask. This might work on websites such as HealthCentral which are rapidly building vast amounts of patient-centered resources within their computer servers. Imagine how this could amplify the influence of each individual who contributes to the database.

    I agree with PJ that nurses are in a special position to become a conduit between doctors, patients, information, and services. I have contrasting experiences in this area. I am not close at all with the nurses at my primary doctor’s office nor my rheumatologist’s nurse. My doctors take such a personal interest in my care that the nurses basically just take my vitals, symptom notes, and check medication lists.

    However, the nurses in my neurologist’s practice have been key to education and support after I was dx with MS. She led monthly meetings for a group of newly-diagnosed patients. Providing the right information at the right time. She established this program to address the many questions and needs of this patient population…and to save precious office visit time when the same issues were being discussed over and over again with different patients.

    The office has a dedicated MS nurse who has special training and credentials (a program which she personally helped to create on the national level). She has always been the point of contact for my personal questions and concerns as they relate to having MS.

    Imagine multiplying this model across many disease states or private practices. Although my MS nurse’s program is supported by an unrestricted educational grant from a pharma company, that company’s product was never given any more attention than any other’s.

    The challenge in companies sponsoring individual patients or nurses to provide educational services to wider audiences would be the perception of bias or industry influence. Trust is so very low that it will take several incremental movements, from the companies with the money and power to do something, before the patient population in general accepts the information, education, and support which may be provided.

    As far as companies (or “industry”) learning what is truly needed and how it can be accomplished, inviting patient leaders to the table is a start. However, the discussion needs not to be limited to what the company expects might be important for patients. Let the patients (preferably a group of patients) talk freely and brainstorm ideas. The company will learn more and I would be able to find solutions which might not have fit into the preconceived marketing plan already developed.

    Patient education is so much more than marketing at various points of contact.

  • Ginger Vieira says:

    There is a tremendous gap between what we learn at the doctor’s office and how we live with our disease in real life. If only it were as simple as following a to-do list and *POOF* =perfect blood sugars. Diseases like diabetes and breast cancer are so much more complicated than simply taking medications as prescribed and eating veggies.

    The crux of it all is: these are truly overwhelming responsibilities we’re talking about! Some days you feel like a success, things are going smoothly. Other days it’s a roller-coaster and the creeping voice of failure is challenging to keep out.

    As a cognitive Health & Chronic Illness Coach at Living In Progress (, my goal is to help fill in that gap by helping people look at how the way they think about their health challenges and the way they think about themselves impacts their ability to live well. If I’ve developed a habit of calling myself a failure every time I see a high blood sugar on my glucose meter, that will inevitably spread throughout the way I take care of myself, body and mind.

    The way we think about our health leads to how well we take care of it. And that is something we have the ability to change, to improve, and to strengthen!

    Ann and Pj, you are amazing!

    Ginger Vieira
    Type 1 Diabetic / Celiac Disease for 11+ years
    15-time drug-tested powerlifting record holder
    Owner/Founder of

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