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.
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:
- Monitoring Our Schedules
Every day we deliberately hold time across all GHC-SCW clinics to help get patients in sooner.
- 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.
- 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:
- Treat a wide variety of health care needs and provide preventive care.
- Help you manage an illness or injury.
- Coordinate your care with Specialty Care Providers.
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:
- Think about your health goals.
- Think about your preferences for your provider’s gender, location and their medical interests.
- Learn more about your provider options online at ghcscw.com when you select the “Clinic or Provider” button.
- Check out patient feedback and comments on the provider pages from our Press Gainey surveys.
- Review the provider’s Access Star Ratings; more stars means getting an appointment with the provider may be easier.
- Your provider determines your network for care.
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.
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.
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:
- Reduced strength, which can impact the ability to lift overhead, return to a sport, and carry items.
- Increased edema or swelling due to surgical changes and rerouting of soft tissues can cause limited ROM and increased discomfort.
- Pain, which can affect a person both when awake and when trying to sleep.
- Reduced range of movement, which can cause problems with carrying out activities of daily living such as washing, dressing, walking, using the stairs, or driving.
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.
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!
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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?
- Decreased energy, fatigue, or being slowed down
- Changes in sleep patterns
- Decreased productivity
- 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?
- 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!
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Halloween is right around the corner, and we know you and your family are eager to wear your best costumes and head out into the neighborhood.
Here are some tips for staying safe this Halloween: whether you’re going trick or treating this year or heading to a costume party.
1) We know you might want to don your dark costume when out trick or treating this year, but it’s essential to ensure you’re well seen! Add bright reflective tape to any costumes that might be dark colored.
2) Makeup is an essential part of any costume! Be sure to test the makeup you plan to wear at least 24-48 hours in advance by putting a small amount of it on your arm or on the arm of the person that will be wearing it. Check back to see if the skin has any reaction.
3) Don’t wear decorative colored contact lenses! These types of contact are at high risk for eye injury and can lead to permanent eye damage. Reach out to a GHC-SCW eye care professional for more information!
4) We know it’s tempting to eat your sweets early, but only eat your candy once it has been inspected at home. Inspect all candy for signs of tampering, such as unusual appearance or discoloration, tiny pinholes, or tears in wrappers.
5) Stay warm! We understand you may have spent all season planning out the perfect costume, but Wisconsin weather can change at the drop of a hat. Be sure to layer up by adding a sweatshirt or long sleeve t-shirt under your costume.
Whether you’re heading out to trick or treat or staying home next week, we hope you have a very happy Halloween!
October marks Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Breast Cancer knows no gender, and GHC-SCW wants you to be informed of the risks and methods you can use to monitor yourself for symptoms.
To understand more, we sat with Kristen Ruf, GHC-SCW Medical Imaging Manager and Dr. Kathryn Ledford to understand more about how you can self-check yourself for signs of breast cancer and information about the process of getting a mammogram.
How can I self-check for lumps or signs of breast cancer?
While current recommendations from the United States Preventive Service Task Force no longer recommend teaching a self-breast examination, they encourage awareness of one’s body and its changes. In my practice, I advise regular self-checks and “knowing your breasts,” as I believe my patients know their bodies better than any clinician. Use the finger pads of 3 fingers to apply gentle pressure in a circular motion around the breast – you can “scan” up and down or in a circular motion, so long as you are sure to check all parts of the breast, including under the areola and the armpit.
How often should I self-check for lumps?
There is no clear recommendation for the frequency of self-checks, and I recommend that my patients check “regularly” – consider monthly to one’s cycle or on the first of the month. If you have a menstrual cycle, check at different times to note the changes in your breasts based on your varying hormone levels throughout the month.
If I find a lump, what should I do?
Call your clinic. Your PCP may want a clinical breast exam or recommend you start with a diagnostic mammogram and ultrasound.
When should I start getting mammograms?
The USPSTF recommends starting mammography screening at age 50 and every other year. This recommendation considers the pros and cons of screening, early detection, the possibility of false positives, and data from millions of people. That said, recommendations vary between clinical groups, and many still consider preventive screening reasonable for persons with breasts in their 40s. I always consider a patient’s personal history, family history, and preferences. I ask them to consider, “What will I do if I get called back for further evaluation?” “Will I feel better knowing I had the screening done?” “If I get a false positive scare, will I keep up with regular screening in the future?”
What is the process of a mammogram?
An order for a mammogram is placed by your PCP. You then call GHC Hatchery Hill to schedule your mammogram there. You will meet with a radiology technician who will perform the exam at the appointment. The mammogram is like an x-ray of your breast; you will need to undress (top only), and each breast will be examined. The radiation from a 3D (tomosynthesis) mammogram is comparable to having 2-3 chest x-rays.
If you see something on my mammogram, what are the next steps?
Mammograms are “graded” by the reading radiologist to determine the best next steps for evaluating any abnormalities seen on the mammogram. Possible next steps include ultrasound, repeat mammogram at a closer interval, and maybe even a biopsy. You will have clear guidance from the radiologist and your PCP to determine the next steps.
Back-to-school time can be a bit crazy for some, especially with homework, pick-ups, and sports. In between all of this, it can be hard to make time to see your GHC-SCW provider. GHC-SCW makes it easier with virtual care options so you can see your provider right from the comfort of your home and busy schedule with GHCMyChart Video Visits!
We sat down with Julie Vander Werff, PA-C, and Nancy Alt, Telehealth Program Manager, to understand more about the dos and don’ts of Video Visits.
To prepare for a video visit, what should I be aware of as a patient?
- There will be pre-visit questions for you to answer before your video visit, so log on early. These questions will include confirming general symptoms, current height/weight, and any allergies your provider should be aware of.
- You must also complete your pre-visit Steps before starting your video visit. If the pre-visit steps aren’t complete, you will not see the “Join Visit” button to start your appointment. These pre-visit steps include allowing the use of your camera/audio and doing a hardware check to ensure you have the right software. If everything is functioning correctly, you will see “Hardware Test: Successful.” If you experience any difficulties, call: (608) 828-4853 or (800) 605-4327 and choose option 2.
Is there something I should not do to prepare for my visit?
- Do not disable your camera or microphone.
- Do not block pop-ups for MyChart.
- Do not be late for your appointment. Patients that check in more than 10 minutes after their scheduled Video Visit appointment may be asked to reschedule.
What are the best practices for a video visit as a patient?
- Review medications beforehand.
- Make sure your equipment is working, and you feel comfortable with the equipment.
- Please be mindful that the provider may be running late for your video visit as they are finishing up with the patient before you and coordinating both video and in-person appointments.
- You should be seated in a comfortable, quiet location.
- Do not drive during the visit.
- If this is your first time doing a video visit, log in at least 15 minutes before your scheduled appointment time to run a self-test on the device you will be using for your visit.
What shouldn’t I do on my video visit with my provider?
- Do not disconnect until the visit is complete.
- Do not answer a text message or phone call during your video visit – it will disrupt your visit.
- Shut off unnecessary electronics such as a TV or Radio.
Do you have other tips or advice for patients using MyChart Video Visits?
- Video visits are acceptable visits for many conditions. Providers get most of the information needed for a diagnosis based on the history that you tell us. Home visits also provide good information regarding living conditions.
Please visit here for more information on GHCMyChart Video Visits and other virtual care options.
August is Psoriasis Awareness Month. With over 3 million cases per year in the U.S., you probably know someone with psoriasis. To understand the inflammatory skin disease and learn more about treatment options, we sat down with Shane Berken, PharmD, about his experience treating GHC-SCW members with psoriasis and a cost-saving research study he conducted to help those that suffer from the disease.
What is psoriasis?
Psoriasis is a chronic, inflammatory skin disease that comes in multiple forms. The most common form is plaque psoriasis, which is characterized by raised skin patches (plaques) covered with scales which can be itchy. The extent of the affected area varies widely from person to person, but some commonly-affected areas include the elbows, knees, lower back, and scalp. Patients with psoriasis often have comorbidities such as joint pain (psoriatic arthritis), obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Psoriasis affects 1-2% of the U.S. population, with an even prevalence between males and females, and it has a strong genetic link.
What is the typical regimen for taking care of psoriasis and managing a patient’s psoriasis?
The approach to treating psoriasis varies depending on the severity of the patient’s disease and existing comorbidities. Topical therapies are the mainstay for most patients with mild-moderate psoriasis. Corticosteroids are generally the most effective of the topical therapies, but other topicals are often used in combination with corticosteroids. Phototherapy, which is a treatment that emits a type of UV radiation, administered in clinic or by a special home device is an effective and safe therapy when topicals fail to adequately control disease or when large quantities of topical therapies are required. Oral therapies such as methotrexate can be used for more severe disease and are usually reserved for patients who have tried other treatments. Biologic medications are the most effective type of treatment for severe disease. These are injected under the skin by patients as frequently as twice per week or as infrequently as every 3 months. The cost of biologics therapies is much higher than other treatments, and thus they are reserved for patients whose disease is not adequately controlled with multiple other therapies.
You completed research for GHC-SCW using a different cost saving medication for members with psoriasis! Can you explain what that research was?
At GHC-SCW, we are constantly looking for ways to reduce the cost of medications to our members. This can result in lower copays at pharmacies and lower monthly premiums. For our members with severe psoriasis who required a biologic therapy to control their disease, GHC-SCW worked with our partners to reduce the cost of one of the newer and most effective biologic drugs for psoriasis. By doing this, our members gained access to a very effective and safe therapy at a lower price for the cooperative. The change had a positive impact on members in two ways. The first way is that members who were currently using an alternative biologic therapy were switched to the newer therapy. The second way is that members had access to this therapy when they required treatment with their first biologic. During the transition to the newer biologic, we kept track of our members who were using it to make sure it worked as well as expected.
What were the results of that research? Did you patients/members see an improvement in symptoms in addition to less costs?
GHC-SCW is excited to report that the initiative to lower costs and improve outcomes for our members with psoriasis was a remarkable success. Most of our members experienced some improvement in their skin compared to what they were achieving with their prior biologic, and the members who had complete control of their skin before making the switch did not lose that control. These impressive results were achieved while also reducing costs.
How can GHC-SCW members work with the clinical pharmacy team to adjust their medication for psoriasis and other diseases?
GHC-SCW’s Clinical Pharmacists are well-trained pharmacists who work with our patients and their GHC-SCW care teams to optimize drug treatments and help reduce cost when possible. Some of the ways clinical pharmacists help our patients include: assisting providers with prescribing choices, drug interactions, and dosing; gathering and reviewing a patient’s full list of medications and making recommendations to optimize therapy; meeting with patients directly to address concerns about side effects, drug interactions, drug costs, and more; educating patients about lifestyle and drug treatments, prescribing drugs, and monitoring labs for some chronic diseases. For access to these services, members may reach out to their GHC-SCW provider or GHC-SCW pharmacy!