It is a saying which has been around forever, but one which helps describe the focus these days at Dr. Michael Hetzner’s office in Kiel: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Trying to prevent diseases before they occur is not necessarily a new development in medicine, but it is one which is getting more and more attention. One big reason for that, according to RN specialist Ann Rusch, is that as a population we continue to not do so well in taking care of ourselves.
Rusch began working for Dr. Hetzner’s Affinity Medical Group office in Kiel last August, focusing on both treatment of people with diseases and trying to help at-risk individuals keep from getting those diseases.
Some of those common diseases are diabetes, heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and lung diseases such as Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).
“Our focus is our whole medical model,” Rusch said. “Our goal is to keep the disease managed, to keep them out of the emergency room.”
Nutrition and exercise the key
For the most part, many of those diseases can be prevented by being careful about what we put in our bodies (food, alcohol, tobacco, etc.), and making sure we keep those bodies moving. It is no secret that nutrition and exercise continue to be the cornerstones of a healthy body.
“People know what they need to do, they just need reminders,” Rusch said. “All I ask is they make one change per week. I don’t want to set them up for failure. They have to make their own choices. If you make a choice, are you willing to suffer the consequences of that choice? I struggle with the temptations, too.”
Having an experienced registered nurse such as Rusch devote her time to preventing and managing diseases changes some traditional ways in which patients have interacted with their medical providers, and vice versa. In the past, many people would go to the doctor’s office when they were sick, get treated, and then not see or hear from the doctor again until the next illness or injury came along.
With the Affinity Medical Group’s “Medical Home” focus, each patient is at the center of his or her care and has an ongoing relationship with a personal provider who leads a team which takes collective responsibility for patient care. In other words, patients are not done with the doctor’s office when they leave there. It is now common for Rusch or someone else from Dr. Hetzner’s office to make a phone call to a person to see how they are doing, to see how they are following up on the advice they received at the office, to make sure they come in for any scheduled lab work, etc.
“I absolutely love working with my patients,” said Rusch, who has been an RN for about nine years after her first vocations in accounting and raising her family. A daughter, son and two daughters-in-law are nurses, so there is plenty of medical talk around Rusch family gatherings.
“We help people find resources,” Rusch said of her patients. “We look for different means to help them.
RN Specialist Ann Rusch is focusing her efforts on disease treatment and prevention in her work at the Kiel office of Dr. Michael Hetzner and within the Affinity Medical Group.
“We get reports identifying the at-risk groups,” she added. “We supply a lot of education for those folks... I don’t just focus on the disease. You have to focus on the whole person. There might be other factors behind their disease. Sometimes they just need someone to talk to.”
Rusch, who previously worked in cardiac and pulmonary rehabilitation, said she has seen patients lose 10 to 30 pounds by making some lifestyle changes. “I have spouses who say, ‘You get them to do more than I can!”
Affinity’s Medical Home teams consist of physicians partnered with advanced practice providers (APNPs or PAs), RN specialists who coordinate chronic disease management, patient service representatives, health care associates (CMAs or LPNs) and a behavioral health care coordinator. “It takes a whole team,” Rusch said. “We work together.”
The physician continues to be a key part of that team, of course, and patients of Dr. Hetzner know he has had a patient-centered philosophy for the 25 years he has been practicing in the community.
In addition to seeing patients at his
Mark Sherry photo
office at 632 Fremont St. (STH 32/57) in Kiel, Dr. Hetzner also sees patients at Chilton’s Calumet Medical Center, which is part of Affinity Health System. He also continues to serve as the medical director of Willowdale Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in New Holstein, and is the chair of the Family Medicine Department for Affinity. He does all that and said, “I make a few house calls here and there.”
Dr. Hetzner continues to take care of patients of all ages and welcomes new patients. The people Rusch tends to see through her specialty generally range in age from their 40s to their 80s. Some have diseases which are newly diagnosed, and some have been diagnosed for years. For others, she is working to fend off disease.
“We are getting worse,” Rusch said of the population’s health. “I don’t have the answer for that.” Busy lifestyles which lead to eating fast food, not taking time to relax and enjoy life and, believe it or not, a smoking rate which is on the rise again are some of the factors she sees.
But for Rusch, it is all about helping people live a better quality of life.