Lee Memorial Health System

Lee Memorial Health System’s Chronic Disease Self-Management Program Workshops Improve Patient Health and Quality of Life

Fort Myers, FL

Not-for-Profit Health Care System

4 Acute Care Hospitals / 2 Specialty Hospitals

Lee Memorial Health System cares for a significant number of patients who come to the emergency department repeatedly for chronic health problems – patients whose conditions could be better managed with their primary care physician on an outpatient basis. The health system wanted to provide a better way for these patients to get the care they need, and also to become better managers of their own health and wellness.

In February 2013, the health system sent two employees to Stanford to be trained as Master Trainers in the “It’s All About You” program, a research-based six-week Chronic Disease Self-Management Program written by Kate Lorig, Dr.P.H., Virginia González, M.P.H., and Diana Laurent, M.P.H. of Stanford University. Lee Memorial Health System offered its first workshop in February 2013.

The free program helps people improve their health and quality of life, and keeps them out of the hospital by empowering participants and giving them the tools, skills and self-confidence they need to stay healthier at home. The classes target three key concepts, including decision making, action-planning/goal-setting and problem-solving. Workshop sessions cover the following topics; as well as many others:

  • An overview of self-management and chronic health conditions
  • Using your mind to manage symptoms
  • Getting a good night’s sleep
  • Making an action plan
  • Feedback and problem-solving
  • Dealing with difficult emotions
  • Physical activity and exercise
  • Preventing falls
  • Making decisions
  • Pain and fatigue management

In the workshop sessions, participants work together to learn from and help each other. Even trained leaders share their personal experiences and struggles with managing a chronic condition. Each week of the workshop, participants develop an action plan and determine goals for the coming week. Goals include exercise, sleep, nutrition or other aspects of a healthy lifestyle. At the following class, the group reports their experiences during the week in relation to their action plan; including if they accomplished their action plan, and if not, what prevented them from completing it.

Lee Memorial Health System has worked with community partners to develop and promote the program, including offering workshop at locations in the community, such as local churches, community wellness centers and retirement communities. Classes target patients with limited resources, offering not only education in convenient locations but also support in other areas such as where to apply for medication assistance, or offering information on strokes and more.

Since February 2013, the health system has held 23 workshops and graduated 155 individuals. Participants fill out a questionnaire at the beginning and end of the program indicating their confidence in their ability to care for themselves and manage their chronic conditions. Combined, the first 55 graduates increased their confidence in their ability or thinking to be more self-sufficient in managing their health from 17 percent to 27 percent.

In addition to improving personal health confidence, one of the program goals was to reduce unnecessary emergency department visits by 20 percent and decrease hospitalizations by 10 percent. The program has far exceeded expectations. When comparing the first set of graduates’ hospital utilization six months before the program and six months after the program, emergency department visits decreased 20 percent, and hospitalizations decreased 67 percent. The quality of patients’ lives has been significantly impacted by this program.

Lee Memorial Health System provides financial support for the program, with partial funding from the Southwest Florida Community Foundation as well as partnerships with local community agencies and organizations. Master Trainers are employed by Lee Memorial and have now trained a total of 37 hospital employees and community members as program leaders. Lee Memorial is continually reaching out to train new community members as program leaders to grow and foster the program’s impact in the areas of the community with the greatest need.