Ask the VNA

By Adriane Berg

Recently, the Visiting Nurse Association of Somerset Hills celebrated 106 years of service in New Jersey. When Board Chair Eva Prather spoke, her plan was to answer a very important question: How did we do it? Her presentation didn’t mention procedure, process, marketing or business development. What she talked about was people. Staff members were recognized for their years of service. Gifts were given for dedication. The human heart, not technology, was the centerpiece of this success.

Accordingly, the guest speaker said the very same thing in the context of healthcare reform. Rosemarie Sweeney, Vice President of Public Policy and Practice Support of the American Academy of Family Physicians talked about the vanishing family practitioner and the importance of the medical home. That phrase, “medical home” is one I hear at health care marketing conferences whenever I attend. What does it mean?

The concept behind the medical home is that the nurse and doctors are a team, and the patient is part of the team, as well. The patient is the center of this team—patient health condition, habits, stresses, and method of learning all illuminate the protocol for our care and keep us all healthier. The family practice, not the specialist, is the first responder when someone does become ill.

When I was a kid I had a medical home. It was my actual home where our family doctor, Dr. Finkelstein, came to the house with his black doctor’s bag to treat us. My mother put a towel on the furniture so the brass tips of the bag would not scratch the vanity. Dr Finkelstein knew everything about us. Maybe too much. My mother had heart palpitations and he knew how to talk her out of them. She didn’t go to an emergency room, she didn’t have a battery of tests, and she didn’t cost the government a lot of money. She lived to 91. Dr. Finkelstein provided a great medical home.

Let’s look again at the VNA. It’s a place where you can safely bring people you love to an adult day center. They can play games, eat, and even have an assisted shower. You can call ASK THE VNA, a navigator system I am proud to have been a part in training and designing. Your call will be answered by knowledgeable, caring staff who will direct you to services outside and inside the VNA, which will meet your needs. ASK THE VNA answers questions from “How do I donate a medical bed?” to “Where do I find a Medicaid lawyer?” This is a place where you can use telehealth nurses that monitor you after a hospital stay from your home, so you don’t become a hospital recidivist. The VNA is a place like “Cheers”, where everybody knows your name.

As Ms. Sweeny suggested, we not only need a medical home, but a medical neighborhood. The VNA creates that neighborhood for the 21st Century, when Dr. Finkelstein may soon be a robot or a computer chip.

I run a business development and marketing company that brings my clients to boomers, seniors, and caregivers. I stay in touch with the trends and the cutting edge of healthcare delivery, as so many of my clients are in that field. The future is mechanical and exciting. Your commode will also give a urine analysis. Your telephone will transmit your glucose level to a doctor’s computer, which will be read by a robot, who will call you and let you know if you need less salt. Salt will be artificial.

This is cost effective and very smart. But it also reminds me of an old Art Buchwald joke, “An economist is like a man that knows everything about women, but doesn’t know any women.” Soon a doctor will be a person that knows everything about your body, but doesn’t know you.
The VNA does. My suggestion is that you go for a look at their facilities. Take action to make a connection with the VNA of Somerset Hills or your local VNA. Say hello, attend their community events before you or a family member need them. Make them part of your community, volunteer. The VNA of Somerset Rummage sale is legendary.

That’s 106 years with enough innovation to know when not to change.

Adriane Berg is CEO of Generation Bold, a marketing, branding and business development consultant to reach boomers, seniors and caregivers. She is also the founder of, Life Long Travel Made Easy.

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