A Healthier U

By Elizabeth Neff, corporate communications manager, University of Utah Health Sciences

From preventing diabetes to building bone strength, the new L.S. Skaggs Patient Wellness Center opening July 11 will take an innovative, interprofessional approach to improving the health of patients with chronic disease or disability.

Located in the Ray and Tye Noorda Oral Health Sciences Building, the 4,000 square foot center funded by the Skaggs Foundation for Research and JAX Foundation will house a large gym, Jack Lunt Learning Annex, and three private consultation rooms.

While the center builds on programs offered by the Department of Physical Therapy over the past decade, it adds nursing and pharmacy services into the mix. The result: a one-stop shopping approach and increased value for underserved groups of patients struggling with health challenges including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis, stroke and diabetes.

“The Colleges of Health, Pharmacy and Nursing have come together in this center to provide underserved patient groups with long-term solutions for improving their health and quality of life,” said Health Sciences Chief Wellness Officer Robin Marcus, Ph.D.

“We strongly believe that solving health care challenges requires breaking down our professional silos and working together. This new center is a great example of that and positions us to be a leader in inter-professional education and treatment at the University and in our community.”

Teams of students supervised by faculty from all three colleges will staff the center to provide supervised group exercise and stress management classes, individual medication and nutrition counseling and group educational seminars.

For example:

  • Pharmacy students will review medications and educate to improve medication adherence and outcomes
  • Physical therapy students can teach patients with osteoarthritis how to reduce pain during exercise
  • Nutrition students will provide individual counseling to people struggling with weight management
  • Nursing students can assess clients for mental health needs or lead stress management classes

The supervised student model makes the center affordable for patients, who can easily access it via public transportation.

The center will also provide new avenues for exercise-based research, an area where the University has garnered over $10 million in major grant funding from organizations including the National Institutes of Health, National Multiple Sclerosis Foundation, American Parkinson’s Disease Foundation and the Orthopedic Trauma Association since 2000.

Planned pharma research includes pharmacokinetics (or how the body processes drugs), the effects of bariatric surgery and extreme weight loss on drug absorption, and the impact of embedding medication review and counseling in a wellness model on medication adherence in chronic disease. Research at the center will also determine the impact of individual health coaching on reducing health care costs in those with chronic health conditions.

Patient-reported outcomes will be measured using University of Utah Health Care’s mEVAL platform and other standardized outcomes will also be measured and documented in EPIC.

The center will partner with local community agencies like Salt Lake County Aging Services as patients become more able to take advantage of services in their communities. It will also take advantage of its new location.

“The School of Dentistry outpatient clinic, which already focuses on providing care to underserved populations, is just upstairs from the new center,” said Marcus. “It’s a natural fit for us both and creates some great synergies.”

Referring Patients to the Center

Providers will soon be able to order L. S. Skaggs Patient Wellness Center consults in the Epic electronic health record, and representatives from the center will be visiting departments to introduce its services. Program offerings in the new center are slated to include:

  • National Diabetes Prevention Program. This evidence-based, year-long lifestyle change program helps patients cut the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes in half by losing between five and seven percent of their body weight.
  • Intro to Diabetes Workshop. A two-hour workshop for anyone concerned they might be at risk or have recently been diagnosed with diabetes that reviews lifestyle changes that can prevent or reverse the disease.
  • Intensive Lifestyle Program. This 12-week program teaches how a healthy lifestyle can improve sleep, energy, mood and focus consists of 12 weekly 90 minute sessions, access to supervised exercise and personalized coaching and wellness recommendations.
  • Supervised Medical Exercise Gym. A supervised exercise program designed to promote a physically active lifestyle in a supportive group atmosphere (most participants will be referred by their physicians).

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For more expert health news and information, visit healthcare.utah.edu/healthfeed.