A place where employees can help themselves

Self-care as disease management

Susan B. Frampton, PhD, knows how important technology will be for health promotion in the 21st century. She also believes that self-care will take an increasingly prominent role in disease management. Recognizing the significance of these two trends, she has decided to wed the two with the creation of a health learning center at St. Francis Medical Center in Hartford, CT, where she serves as director of health promotion.

The center, which will open this month, is located within the medical center in a high-traffic area. "It will be a huge room — in a lot of ways it will feel like a public area," Frampton explains. It will contain a large main area with a help desk and offices behind it; four computer workstations (computers and printers, all with Internet access and CD-ROM drives); two TV/VCR stations, one designed for the site-impaired reader; its own collection of videos and CD-ROMs; and a children’s information area. It will be staffed with a librarian who can help visitors conduct their searches.

The start-up funding for the center was raised through The Miracles Benefit, a program St. Francis runs every year to target specific needs. "They raised over $300,000, which was donated to help cover the costs of renovation, computer equipment, the collection of books and periodicals, and so forth," says Frampton.

The center will serve the hospital’s employees, patients, families, and the community at large. "This is in keeping with the trends we see in this country, where consumers — and patients in particular — are looking for more information on how to stay well and how to manage their own disease when they are diagnosed," she explains. "They are beginning to demand more of a partnership with their health care providers, and choosing how their treatment should proceed. It’s all part of the move to self-care."

Frampton sees the center as an adjunct for her employee health education programs. "It will be include a state-of-the-art, comprehensive, multi-media resource collection," she says. "It will include the latest books on health and wellness, and some very special electronic information services we are linked into."

Going on line

These Internet-based services will allow employees and others to go on-line, click on to any health-related topic and get all the latest literature — and print it out in full text. The service Frampton has subscribed to is called Info-Trac.

"The other one [we’ve subscribed to] that’s really neat is called Alt-health watch, which contains all of the periodicals and journals on complementary medicine," she says. Here, too, the user can pull up information by topic and print it out in full text.

Frampton says you can pay between $6,000 and $9,000 per year to subscribe to services like Info-Trac, while Alt health watch is much more reasonable: A fee of about $1,500 buys access for for two to three computers.

Getting educated

Frampton is also creating new education programs to support the center, on topics like using the Internet and how to research your own illness. "By giving people access to the information they need, they can optimize their own health — as well as that of their family," she explains.

Frampton believes that corporations should also consider instituting such learning centers. "I can see companies using it as a medical cost-containment strategy," she says "If you are directly promoting self-care and empowering informed people to take care of themselves and stay well, there should be a corresponding impact on health care utilization," she says.

[For more information, contact: Susan Frampton, Department of Health Promotion, St. Francis Medical Center, 95 Woodland Street, Hartford, CT 06105. Telephone: (860) 714-6580. E-mail: sframpto@stfranciscare.org.]