Guest Column: Standardized formats for health screenings

Programs increase awareness and prevention

By Pamela Holden, RN
Community Educator
Susan Winslow, RN, MSN, CNS
Director, Community Services
Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville, VA

Many hospitals, as part of their community outreach, conduct multiple health fairs and screenings. For nonprofit organizations, these special events provide an ideal opportunity to promote new services, conduct health education and establish positive outreach. They may consist of a single activity or a whole host of interventions at events such as an annual health fair.

People are naturally drawn to health fairs. They want to know "the numbers" that affect their lives. Health fairs are a valuable method to reach large numbers of individuals at one time.

Martha Jefferson Hospital is a top-100, non-profit, community hospital located in central Virginia. As part of its commitment to community service, a number of health screening programs are offered throughout the year. These programs were created to help educate the public on health awareness and prevention, as well as provide on site screenings to assist in early detection. These health screenings also assist in identifying specific health care concerns and high-risk criteria that need to be addressed. The screening results help the hospital serve the community more efficiently and effectively.

Due to practitioner variability in screening result interpretation, inconsistency in clinical advice, and participant interest in receiving written results, the hospital instituted a process of standardizing the format for all community health screenings.

The need for the standardized health screening form was threefold: it assisted the department in improving educational strategies on risk behaviors; reduced the variance of individual practitioner interpretation; and incorporated recent patient confidentiality concerns. Each screening form has an area for demographic data, risk factor identification, results, and recommendations. A liability statement at the bottom of each form addresses the purpose of the screening, and the importance of the patient’s responsibility for initiating any follow-up exams or treatments that may be necessary. 

The process for creating the forms took approximately six months. Initially, information was gathered from the following sources: National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, MD; American Cancer Society in Atlanta; National Quality Advisory Committee in Salt Lake City; American College of Preventive Medicine in Washington, DC; Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality in Rockville, MD; Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta; National Breast Cancer Coalition in Washington, DC; American Academy of Dermatology in Schaumberg, IL; American Urological Association in Baltimore; American Diabetes Association in Alexandria, VA; American Heart Association in Dallas; National Heart, Lung and Institute in Bethesda, MD; and the National Osteoporosis Foundation in Washington, DC.

No specific criteria or standardization for screening forms was discovered. There were recommendations regarding who needs to be screened and how the screening is to be conducted, but apparently no specific information on form content or standards exists.

As a result of this investigation, the department of community services at Martha Jefferson Hospital decided to create its own standardized hospital screening forms. The committee drafted forms for each common screening activity, for a total of eight forms. These included clinical breast exams, skin cancer, prostate cancer, diabetes, bone density, peripheral vascular disease, blood pressure, and heart rhythms.

A rough draft was created for each screening. The form was then sent to a specialty physician for review and editing. The breast, skin, and prostate forms were also sent to the director of the cancer care center. After revisions, the forms were sent to the medical director, and the medical staff committee for review and approval. Legal counsel reviewed the liability statement at the bottom of the form. The vice president of administration and human resources also reviewed the liability statement. Once final reviews were made, the forms were copied and made available for use.

The forms are used at each screening event conducted by Martha Jefferson staff, as well as any individual screening that may occur (for example, random walk-in blood pressure checks). Each health care provider and the patient fill out the form, with the original to the patient and a copy for filing. It was decided that each section head physician and the litigation staff would review the forms annually to make sure they were updated and current.

The health-screening forms have been useful in tracking patient health findings in a consistent manner, while preserving confidentiality of data. The forms also provide a standardized way of recording information for statistical use, and are a good way of tracking data that may indicate any trends, or provide risk behavior criteria.

The information derived from the forms provides summary statistical data that will provide information as to what areas and health issues need to be explored and targeted in the future at other health screening events. These forms also are utilized by the hospital as an important documentation tool that helps address the liability issue involved in health screening events. The standardized health screening forms have assisted the community services department in logging and tracking data and keeping this important information on file.

(Editor’s note: Special thanks to Hallie Hegemier, MEd, business health specialist, who assisted with this project.)

Sources

For more information about the health screening forms, contact:

  • Pamela Holden, RN, Community Educator, Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville, VA. Telephone: (434) 244-4410. E-mail: pamela.holden@mjh.org.
  • Susan A. Winslow, RN, MSN, CNS, Director of Community Services, Martha Jefferson Hospital, Charlottesville, VA. Telephone: (434) 982-7068. E-mail: susan.winslow@mjh.org.

Audio conferences target disasters, medical disclosure

Have you missed one of American Health Consultants’ (AHC) recent audio conferences? If so, two upcoming conference replays offer another opportunity to take advantage of excellent continuing education opportunities for your entire facility.

• Disaster Response at Ground Zero: How NYU Downtown Hospital Handled Mass Casualties With All Systems Down, originally held on Jan. 10, takes participants to the heart of the World Trade Center disaster on Sept. 11. Just a few blocks away from the crash site, NYU Downtown was cut off from crucial lifesaving supplies and power, even as hundreds of injured came through the ED doors. HazMat teams on the roof of the hospital had to vacuum all of the debris out of air ducts to maintain air quality and keep generators running. Physicians and nurses had to balance urgent care with proper documentation. Learn how to prepare your facility for the unthinkable. The replay will be available from 8:30 a.m. on Tues-day, April 16, to 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 17. Current AHC subscribers pay $249, which includes free CME and CE credit. The cost is $299 for nonsubscribers.

On April 23 and 24, What to Say When Something Goes Wrong: Do the Right Thing When Trouble Strikes also will be available for replay. This successful audio conference covers the major fear factors clinicians experience when confronting issues of medical disclosure. Learn benefits for patient and provider, as well as the risks of litigation and how to avoid costly legal battles. Free CE for your entire facility is included in the $249 fee for AHC subscribers.

To register for either one of these replays, contact American Health Consultants’ customer service department at (800) 688-2421 or customerservice@ahcpub.com.