New ‘wellness guide’ role helps women easily navigate care

When Fargo-area women have questions, someone is there with personalized answers

JoAnna Thome stands in front of a counter with a sign on the wall saying Sanford Women's.

Women tend to think about health a lot.

But after health issues come up with young kids, spouses or aging parents, women can have a hard time focusing on their own health.

“Women really are the managers of their families in a lot of circumstances,” said Siri Thaden, a community programs manager for Sanford Women’s Health. “Women are busy — they’re super busy — and they often put their own needs last.”

Health decisions can be daunting even for women with fewer family needs — a college student or empty nester, for example. Health care systems have lots of options, so how do you choose a new doctor? What kind of doctor is actually best for you at this stage in life? Where can you go to find resources on a certain health topic?

Friends can help with some of these questions. But they may not face the same health issues as you, or know very much about programs available.

Sanford Health realizes women can use some guidance. After all, gynecology needs differ from pregnancy needs, which differ from midlife needs. So the health system offers women’s specialists, along with resources ranging from information to classes to coaching, at multiple locations.

And now Sanford Health is taking the notion of guidance and convenience one step further. Its first women’s wellness guide, JoAnna Thome, acts as that friend who always has the inside scoop.

Wellness guide as provider matchmaker

Thome, based in the newly designed Sanford Women’s Center at Sanford Southpointe Clinic in Fargo, North Dakota, works with women in that area who want help navigating something in the health system.

The wellness guide service is tailored to each woman in several ways.

First, through a brief health assessment, a person can explain what she’s looking for, her location preference and her desired time frame. To access the health assessment, people can visit with Thome in person at the Women’s Center in the Southpointe Clinic lobby, call (701) 234-4HER (701-234-4437), or visit the wellness guide website.

Then, from the results of the health assessment, Thome compiles a personalized care outline, or schedule of services specific to that person’s interests.

For example, if someone is looking for a primary care provider, the outline might include several options who would be a good fit.

“It’s kind of doing some matchmaking,” Thome says.

Once they choose one, she can help hand them off to a scheduler over the phone to make an appointment.

The outline could include resources about a specific health topic: dates and times for classes or support groups, events, videos or exercise programs. Stress has been a popular topic so far.

It also could offer help setting up My Sanford Chart or the Sanford Health app. Or it could provide clinic maps and directions.

Thome will communicate with the patient however they wish — in person at the clinic, or through a phone call, or through My Sanford Chart messages.

Helping meet all women’s needs

A wellness guide aims to help women wherever they are in life. So the college student or newly employed graduate who’s looking for her first “grown up” primary care provider can find one, while also asking Thome about unfamiliar health care terms or acronyms. (“What’s a referral? How do I get one?” “What’s a PCP?”)

Thome can help a woman who’s pregnant or planning to become pregnant find an OB/GYN and some classes. Thome can help a mom who’s finished having kids transition beyond an OB/GYN to a family medicine provider, or, if medical issues become more complex, to an internal medicine provider.

As more requests come in for different resources, the Women’s Center can look at offering new programs, too. For example, Thaden said they had identified a gap in service for moms who are in the postpartum recovery phase, so they just launched a postpartum yoga class for women.

Meeting women’s health needs conveniently, at any stage of life, is the ultimate goal of the wellness guide program.

“I think it gives them more of a hand in their own health care,” Thome said.

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Posted In Faces of Sanford Health, Midlife, News, Women's

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