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When we say, “created for you,” we mean it. Accessibility and excellence have long been synonymous with GHC-SCW primary care, which has a history of being one of the highest-rated commercial health insurance plans in the country with a rating of 4.5/5.0 (according to National Committee for Quality Assurance’s Private Commercial Health Insurance Plan Ratings for 2022). No other plan in Wisconsin is ranked higher. We earn that rating consistently because it’s our mission to continually innovate and improve our members’ experience.

So, what makes primary care so special at GHC-SCW? Below are just a handful of ways we center our patients and improve our quality of care.

GHC Experience Guarantee

We want your experience at GHC-SCW to exceed your expectations every time. If your experience at a GHC-SCW clinic doesn’t meet your expectations, tell us about it and at your request we’ll refund the out-of-pocket costs associated with your visit.

This guarantee is just one way we show our commitment to YOU. It’s one way we take your real-time feedback and improve. It’s also Wisconsin’s first and only money-back health care guarantee.

A Team Approach

At GHC-SCW, we believe that quality care requires a team approach. We build a care team of health care professionals around you. It may include pharmacists, behavioral health providers and physical therapists – it varies because it’s designed to meet your unique needs.

Same-Day Access

When you’re sick, a waiting room is the last place you want to be. We will always work to get you seen in the fastest and most convenient way possible when you need care. Whether that’s an appointment with a provider on your care team, an appointment at our Capitol Clinic Urgent Care or even a virtual visit, like a video visit with your own provider.

Our staff works tirelessly to provide timely access to care for our member patients. Three ways we work proactively to make sure we’re available:

  1. Monitoring Our Schedules
    Every day we deliberately hold time across all GHC-SCW clinics to help get patients in sooner.
  2. Assigning Patients Intentionally
    Our primary care providers see a limited group of patients. That helps you consistently have access to your provider when you need it.
  3. Making Appointments Available at Urgent Care
    Urgent Care patients won’t ever sit in our waiting room for hours. We have about 100 appointments open every day.

Finding a Primary Care Provider
The key to optimal health is finding a partner in your Primary Care Provider. By understanding you, your needs and your medical history, we’re able to not only help you manage your care in their clinic but also help you navigate specialty and even hospital care.

Your provider can:

It’s important to choose a provider who understands you, involves you in your care, meets your needs and can be a source of trust. Here are some tips:

Earning the privilege to care for you is why all 800+ of us get out of bed in the morning. Our staff are committed to caring for your whole person with patient-centered, coordinated care.

If you’re interested in learning more or switching to GHC Primary Care, visit https://ghcscw.com/health-care/primary-care.

Our Physical Therapists at GHC-SCW started offering a new lower body strengthening class called Stronger Together! The goal of this class is to help members get back to the sports and activities they love after a lower body injury or surgery. Keep reading to learn more about this exciting new class!

 

Who is Stronger Together for? 

Stronger Together is a class for current Physical Therapy patients who are looking to improve lower body strength, endurance and movement patterns in a group-based setting. The members of the class are looking to return to sports or recreational activities that their injury has limited them in. This class is also for individuals trying to get back to jobs where more physical demands are placed on the lower body. Many individuals in the class have had recent surgeries on their knee, hip or ankle joints.  

 

What do I need to be able to do to participate in the class? 

You need to be a person currently being seen by a Physical Therapist at GHC-SCW. Your Physical Therapist can help to make sure you are ready for the class with the home exercise program you are currently participating in. Participants should be able to tolerate basic squat and lunge patterns and a generalized lower-body strength program with minimal pain. 

 

What are the goals of the class? 

We want to improve your athletic performance, endurance, strength, and coordination to promote a return to sporting and recreational activities. Class participants will get individualized feedback on movement patterns and form from GHC-SCW’s Rehab professionals. Ultimately, we hope to give more opportunities for individuals to complete exercises in a group-based setting to push themselves to try to make more strength gains overall.  

 

When and where is the class? 

The class runs on Monday and Wednesday afternoons for 45 minutes from 3:05 – 3:50 p.m. in the Princeton Club West Group Strengthening Room. Our instructors rotate based on the day but include Paul Jones, DPT, SCS; Jackie Spees, DPT, CSCS; and Kaitlin Stieve, PTA, NASM-CPT. Currently we are scheduling 2-week sessions and the total cost of the 4 sessions is $40. Signup information can be found here. 

Summer is when we can enjoy the warmth of the sunshine on lazy, hazy days. But what happens when the air gets a little too hazy? You may have recently noticed less visibility in the air, along with warnings about air quality issues from local meteorologists and on your weather app.

 

What causes air quality issues? Common sources of air quality problems are pollution, including, as we’ve seen more recently, smoke from wildfires, such as in Canada or the western United States. Breathing in this type of air is dangerous, as it can contain harmful substances that can negatively affect our bodies. People at the greatest risk for health problems during this time are older adults, pregnant persons, infants and children, and individuals with lung or heart issues.

 

When there are problems with the air quality in your area, you may notice yourself coughing more, having trouble breathing or having a scratchy throat. Your eyes might sting or water due to the smoke in the air. Experiencing these physical symptoms due to poor air quality raises an important question: How can you stay informed and monitor the air quality in your area? There are many resources you can use to check the local air quality, including visiting airnow.gov. You can also sign up for air quality alerts from the Wisconsin DNR.

 

If an air quality alert is issued for your location, there are steps you can take to keep yourself healthy and safe. Avoid going outdoors, especially at peak negative air quality levels. Make sure all the windows and doors are closed. Have an air purifier running in your home to filter out the harmful substances in the air. Avoid exercising outdoors, as breathing in smoky air during physical activity can put additional strain on your body.

 

But what can you do to protect yourself if you need to be outside, such as for work or running necessary errands? You can wear a KN95 or N95 mask to protect against breathing harmful particles in the air. If you are driving, ensure your climate settings are on recirculating air, not the fresh air setting, as this will prevent more problematic air from being pulled into your vehicle.

 

We can’t stop the Canadian wildfires, but we can improve air quality by:

 

While we may not have control over the air quality in our area, prioritizing our health and taking proactive measures during periods of poor air quality is essential. By staying informed about air quality updates and following guidelines, we can make informed decisions and minimize our exposure to harmful substances in the air.

June is Pride Month, which is a time to celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and highlight ongoing improvements in health equity.  

GHC-SCW is committed to serving every member of the Cooperative and providing a safe and welcoming environment for all. Equitable access to health care is core to our mission and vision. Gender-affirming surgeries and procedures require post-care management to enhance patient outcomes. This includes consultation and rehabilitation interventions from professionals in our Occupational (OT) and Physical Therapy (PT) departments.  

Musculoskeletal providers at GHC support gender-affirming care. Wendy Parsons, PT and Heather Crandell, OTR, CHT, CLT have answered a few questions below on gender-affirming clinical practices for post-operative patients. 

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What is a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist? 

Wendy: Pelvic Floor Physical Therapy is a specialty practice within physical therapy.  A Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist has taken additional education to assist and treat issues related to the musculoskeletal system of the pelvic region, especially the pelvic floor muscles. Some of the things a Pelvic Floor PT can help people with include leakage of urine/bowels (incontinence), pelvic pain, difficulty with bowel movements, postpartum recovery, and gender-affirming bottom surgeries.  

What can a Pelvic Health PT do for an individual who is planning or had gender-affirming bottom surgery? 

Wendy: Having a pelvic floor PT session prior to gender-affirming bottom surgery can help identify pelvic floor muscle dysfunction and/or weakness and work to improve these. Muscle dysfunction includes muscle activation when they should be relaxing, poor muscle recruitment, and poor coordination of these muscles. Improving pelvic floor weakness can help decrease bladder leakage. Research has indicated that individuals who have addressed pelvic floor dysfunction prior to gender-affirming bottom surgeries maintain these improvements after. For individuals that have, or are planning to have, a vaginoplasty, pelvic floor PT can help them with pelvic floor muscle relaxation and the ability to do vaginal dilation during recovery.  

What is the role of Occupational Therapy for those who have undergone a top-surgery, such as chest flattening surgery or breast augmentation? 

Heather: Occupational therapists help maximize outcomes to return to desired functional activities after surgery and in some cases involving multiple surgeries. These surgeries may come with side effects which can have long term impacts on a patient’s quality of life from sensitization, range of motion, weakness and fatigue, scar tissue adhesions, and pain.  A variety of complications could be mitigated with early rehabilitation post-operatively. An Occupational Therapist will work on a varied of areas of practice based on clients’ needs including but not limited to: musculoskeletal, sexual health, psychosocial, body image, fatigue, and pain.   

Why is scar management so important after gender-affirming surgeries? 

Heather: A scar is an area of fibrous tissue that replaces normal skin following an injury or trauma, such as a cut or burn. Scarring is a natural part of the healing process after surgery but can sometimes require management to ensure that it does not cause additional problems. Scar management helps to normalize tissue pliability, mobility, and sensation.  

The location and amount of scar tissue will dictate the impact it has on functional activities. Below are some of the common difficulties scar tissue can cause: 

 What are other ways PT/OT can support gender affirming care? 

Wendy:  It has been noted in research that the transgender population has a higher rate of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs). Research also has shown that individuals with more adverse childhood experiences have a higher rate of reported pain issues. This can include neck pain, shoulder pain, or pelvic pain and muscle dysfunctions. Having gender-affirming surgery does not improve these issues specifically. 

An example of this could be an individual that had pelvic floor issues before having bottom gender affirming surgery will continue to have these issues after surgery. Another example is individuals that have increased pelvic muscle tension or difficulty relaxing pelvic floor muscles before having a vaginoplasty may have more difficulty using dilators after surgery. These things can be treated and improved with pelvic floor PT. 

In both PT and OT care, the focus is on improving patients’ outcomes and quality of life. This means it is important to treat the whole individual and develop a plan WITH the patient that is specific to THEIR needs. We believe that caring for the whole person requires a trauma-informed lens to ensure that each patient feels safe and supported during their care, especially given the sensitivity of the nature of this work. 

If you feel you would benefit from PT or OT care, please talk with your primary care provider or specialist about a referral for therapy services. 

Warmer weather is on the way and that means it’s time to get outside, crack the windows and enjoy the great thaw! It also means that unwanted seasonal allergies can spring into action. And because of the mix of warm and cold fronts we’ve had, allergy symptoms might be worse for some this year. But don’t fret, there are plenty of simple steps you can take to reduce your symptoms as much as possible! Here are some tips.

Watch the Weather

Be aware of when the weather could trigger your allergy symptoms. For example, try to stay indoors on dry, windy days when pollen exposure is much higher. The most ideal time to be outside is after rainfall because the wetness helps clear pollen from the air.

Protect Your Sinuses

Wear a face mask if you do yard work and outside chores like mowing the lawn, pulling weeds and gardening. Also consider wearing a face covering during other prolonged outdoor activities like hiking.

Keep the Outside, Outside

Change your clothes when you arrive home, especially after any outdoor activities, like yard work. Shower and wash your hair before going to bed. This will prevent allergens from moving to indoor surfaces, like furniture and bedding.

Clear Air = Clear Head

During your peak allergy season, keep windows closed and use an air conditioner to filter pollen from the air. Use a dehumidifier to keep the air in your home dry and limit exposure to allergens. You can also use the air conditioning if you’re traveling by car.

Medication

Nasal saline (salt water) sprays can be used to clear pollen from your nose after outdoor activities. They also help to loosen any nasal drainage. Over-the-counter remedies like oral and eye antihistamines or corticosteroid nasal sprays can help ease your allergy symptoms, like itchy nose and eyes, sneezing and congestions, during a flare up. If your symptoms of seasonal allergies don’t improve or they worsen, see your primary care provider or schedule a virtual care visit.

It’s been a long winter… now go out and enjoy the thaw!

At GHC-SCW, we take pride in our eye care services, board-certified optometrists, and qualified optometric technicians staff at our award-winning GHC-SCW Eye Care Center.

We sat down with Dr. Tim Schwefel, optometrist and head of GHC-SCW Eye Care, to learn more about his day-to-day looks at GHC-SCW Eye Care.

What does your day look like with GHC-SCW eye care?

A typical day starts at 7:45 AM. We see 15-16 patients daily with a wide variety of concerns. This could include a straightforward routine eye exam, complex contact lenses, and urgent care cases. The ages can vary from 4-98 years old.

Do you have a favorite part about practicing optometry?

Besides the privilege of helping the member maintain their most important sense, I think that because I’ve been at GHC so long, I’m seeing 3rd generation patients.

What kind of patients do you see?

We have a very diverse population of patients from other countries and backgrounds. They can be pediatric patients to geriatric patients. Some are straightforward for their visual needs, while others can be very complex. I don’t get bored with a typical day.

What’s your favorite part about working at GHC-SCW Eye Care?

I feel the “family” attitude is so beneficial. There is also a deep understanding by employees of our mission to provide an award-winning patient care experience and patient-centered health care delivery.

GHC-SCW is hiring optometrists and optometric technicians to join our 2022 People’s Choice Favorite here in Madison! Apply today: https://us63.dayforcehcm.com/CandidatePortal/en-US/grouphealth?q=optometrist.

February is Black History Month, an annual celebration of achievements by Black Americans and a time for recognizing their central role in U.S. History. Since 1976 every U.S. president has officially designated the month of February as Black History Month.

At GHC-SCW, we understand the importance of celebrating and embracing diverse communities. Whether we’re addressing health care inequities, strengthening the path to health care for the most vulnerable in our community, or through our work internally with bias training or our employee resource groups. As an organization, we take these initiatives seriously and make a point to focus on them not just in February but all year round.

Are you looking to celebrate Black History Month but unsure what to do? Here are some ideas to help get you started.

  1. Have Critical Conversations.
    Black History Month is the perfect time to begin having critical conversations around race in and out of the workplace. Whether you’re sitting down with your team, your peers or maybe even your family. It’s important to have tough conversations centered around unconscious bias and privilege. Often, the most challenging discussions bring the biggest breakthroughs.
  2. Read books from Black authors.
    From science fiction to memoirs to historical fiction, there’s a book from Black authors for everyone, perfect for reading throughout February and any time of the year. Visit the Innocence Project for a list of powerful books from talented Black authors.
  3. Support local Black-Owned Businesses.
    Madison is a hub for diversity! No matter where you are, east, west, or right down on the isthmus, there are many Black-owned businesses in your backyard. Still, trying to figure out where to start? Head to the Madison Black Chamber of Commerce for a list of fantastic local Black-owned businesses ranging from retail shops, coffee bars, and even restaurants.
  4. Attend Black History Month events.
    Many significant events are going on in and around south-central Wisconsin to help honor the role of Black Americans throughout history and today. Whether you head to Loud n’ Unchained Black QTDisabled Showcase + Mini Artists Market with Madison Public Library or you taking a day trip to Milwaukee for Milwaukee Films Black History Month showcase. Visit Madison365 or your local library for a more extensive list of events.

We’d love to hear how you celebrate Black History Month in February. Let us know in the comments below!

As a Member-Owner of South-Central Wisconsin’s only not-for-profit cooperative health plan, you have access to world-class primary care and an elite specialty and hospital care network. But now, as a GHC-SCW Member-Owner, you get access to our brand new and unique Member-Owner Rewards (MOR) Program, which opens a bunch of doors for you and your path to health.

Think of MOR as a way to maximize your GHC-SCW membership and customize your path to health and well-being. And you don’t even have to sign up for it; your membership card already makes you eligible.

We understand this is a new program and we’re here to answer some questions!

What is included in MOR?

With MOR, you get access to convenient and money-saving discounts. This includes:

How do I activate MOR?

Just by being a GHC-SCW member! No activation is required.

Is MOR free?

Access to MOR is included in your membership, making it free of charge! Although some services you receive access to, such as Complementary Medicine and Eye Care Discounts, may have an additional cost.

The holidays can be hard to remember to stay healthy, especially with all the holiday gatherings, sugary drinks, and cookies. But by keeping your health and safety in mind during December, you can keep yourself and your loved ones safe and be ready to enjoy the holidays all season long.

  1. Wash hands often to prevent the spread of germs. It’s flu, RSV, and COVID-19 season. Always wash your hands with soap and clean running water for at least 20 seconds after you’ve gone to the bathroom, before you eat that delicious holiday spread, or even after you’ve left a holiday gathering.
  2. Don’t drink and drive or let others drink and drive. During the holidays, alcohol consumption can increase, leading to a tendency to drink and drive. No matter how many sips you’ve had, choose not to drink and drive and help others do the same by calling a friend, calling a taxi, or requesting an Uber or Lyft.
  3. Practice fire safety. Did you know most residential fires occur during the winter months? Don’t leave fireplaces, space heaters, or candles unattended. And always make sure to keep that glowing Christmas tree away from any heat sources to prevent any potential fires!
  4. Monitor children. With all the excitement of gift-giving and new toys, it’s essential to keep potential choking and health hazards away from children.

We hope you have a happy and healthy holiday season!

During the winter months, you may feel more sluggish or less motivated. There are fewer lovely weather days, you’re trapped inside, and sometimes dark clouds overwhelmingly fill the sky. These symptoms can lead to a winter slump and symptoms of depression, where you may experience a drop in productivity and cause challenges in both your work and personal life. Recognizing those symptoms and finding ways to minimize them is essential for staying happy and healthy all winter long.

What are the symptoms of a winter slump?

  1. Decreased energy, fatigue, or being slowed down
  2. Changes in sleep patterns
  3. Decreased productivity
  4. Changes in appetite

It’s important to note that if these symptoms occur for days or are causing significant interruptions to your life, never hesitate to reach out to our GHC-SCW Behavioral Health Team. You can find their information here. They can help you connect with a provider that may help you with your needs!

So how can you beat the symptoms of a winter slump?

  1. Exercise: A daily 30-minute walk or workout may help minimize depression symptoms. Take a walk on a snowy path and check out the holiday lights in your neighborhood!
  2. Enjoy the sunlight: As little as 15 to 30 minutes can go a long way to alleviate the winter blues. Not a lot of sun in the forecast? There are plenty of artificial sunlight options, like a light therapy box, that can help!
  3. Get enough Sleep: A lack of sleep can affect your mood! Put away your device early each night and try to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep.
  4. Moderate Alcohol Consumption: Increasing alcohol consumption during the holidays can also affect your mood! Two glasses of wine are plenty for a holiday party – one if you’ve already had the eggnog.
  5. Adjust expectations: Don’t let the visions of a perfect holiday spoil everything. Learn that most things can be good enough, including gifts, parties, and company.