Monday, September 21, 2009

The Importance of the Health Form - Keeping Your Child Safe!

One of my responsibilities at People to People Ambassador Programs is to manage and provide leadership to the medical team. The medical team is composed of highly trained individuals responsible for collecting a health form from every single delegate planning to travel on one of our many life-changing programs. The health form is a simple but important two-sided document that allows parents and guardians to alert our medical team to any condition students might have that could impact their ability to participate in and enjoy the experiences of our programs. The health form is submitted to the medical team soon after participants enroll to ensure all health issues can be addressed in a timely manner prior to traveling.

While a student is on program, that same health form is carried by the program leader. In the event a student becomes ill and needs to be taken to a medical professional, the health form will provide the treating medical professional with medical information to effectively treat the student.

The medical form requests full disclosure of all health and medical conditions including but not limited to health and mobility limitations, hearing or vision impairments, allergies, diabetes, etc. The parent/guardian is asked to fully explain any health, medical, or mobility conditions or limitations and notify the medical team of all medications the student requires to control the conditions, along with emergency contact information. The health form also requires the parent/guardian to acknowledge and agree to important disclosures. These agreed disclosures serve several purposes and allow People to People Ambassador Programs associates and leaders to seek medical treatment for the student in the event such treatment is needed while a student is on the program. The parent/guardian also consents and authorizes the treating physician to share important information with our program office and with the leaders in the field. Having this authorization allows us to promptly communicate factual information with the student’s parent/guardian (or designated emergency contacts in the event a parent/guardian is unavailable).

The health form explains the importance of disclosing all health and medical conditions or information to our medical team. The reason is very simple—if we clearly understand a student’s health or medical condition in advance, our organization will be more successful in providing the best possible program for the traveler. Full disclosure of all health and medical conditions by the parent/guardian in advance increases our ability to reasonably accommodate the student’s health and medical needs.

At People to People Ambassador Programs, we pride ourselves on our ability to provide reasonable accommodations as required by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In 2009, we increased the number of reasonable accommodations made from 2008, which means that many more students can have access to a life-changing experience, including those who may not have had the opportunity with other organizations in the past.

One of the ways we keep up to date on the latest ADA laws is by annually inviting our friends and colleagues from the Disability and Business Technical Assistance Center (DBTAC) to our Spokane headquarters. For the past two years, this group of ADA specialists from the University of Washington campus in Mountlake Terrace, Washington, has traveled to Spokane to provide our organization with the most up-to-date training available on ADA laws and requirements. Last year, we trained more than 20 key associates who are responsible for establishing program venues and content as well as dealing directly with families requesting reasonable accommodations. Of course, we also trained the leadership team responsible for the management of our vast network of leaders. Next month, the DBTAC will make its annual trip to Spokane to provide this year’s training, just in time to cover some of the ADA laws that were expanded or changed in 2009.

In addition to ADA training, we also provide HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1999) training and certification to the key individuals who have access to confidential medical information. The privacy rules contained within HIPAA provide federal protections for personal health information held by covered entities and give patients an array of rights with respect to that information. At the same time, the privacy rules are balanced so that they permit the disclosure of personal health information needed for patient care and other important purposes.

People to People Ambassador Programs is not held to the rigorous standards of HIPAA by any agency, as we are not a medical-service provider nor do we charge for medical services. But we do believe the confidentiality of your child’s medical information is vitally important, and therefore we voluntarily have elected to meet and implement HIPAA standards and requirements. Accessibility to all medical information is limited to just those associates who have a reason to know the information. Each employee with this access, including me, has been certified in HIPAA Privacy and Security Training by Supremus Group. What this means to you is that the information you share with our organization will be kept confidential and protected.

In short, we have a very comprehensive medical-health review process in place that is designed to ensure the safety and health of all delegates while they are on one of our programs. But our ability to effectively manage this program relies on the information shared on the medical health form. If your child needs a reasonable accommodation, our highly trained medical team will do all in their power to develop a plan that is right for your child.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!


Friday, September 4, 2009

Safety Measures for Swine-Flu-Free Experiences in Washington, D.C.

Yesterday we reached out to the families of all our delegates traveling with us on one of our fall World Leadership Forum programs in Washington, D.C.

The safety of all our delegates is our number-one priority. To that end, we are prepared to aggressively control the risk of the influenza virus impacting any of our delegates, and I’d like to share with you how we are achieving that goal.

Usually, we see a small number (generally 4-6) of students who arrive at our leadership forums with some form of virus. Each program consists of several hundred students, so it is a very small percentage that arrives at a program ill. People to People ensures these students receive prompt care by one of the many medical facilities in the D.C. area. They are also attended to by individual People to People associates assigned to monitor their conditions and personal needs as they recover. We have found that students who arrive ill on our programs almost always had symptoms at home prior to travel.

I experienced this firsthand on my first World Leadership Forum last fall when a young man experienced shallow breathing, fatigue, and other symptoms upon arrival at the program. He was immediately seen by a medical professional on site, and then he and I headed to the hospital via ambulance. The diagnosis was early-stage pneumonia, a condition he had developed several days prior to departing for our program.

I spent the next two nights sleeping in a chair in his room while the doctors cared for the student, as it is our policy to never leave a student alone in a medical facility. Fortunately, we caught the condition early and were able to immediately get this student the medical attention he so needed, and he was able to rejoin the rest of the delegation for the remainder of the program once we were assured he was no longer contagious and was fit to participate in the many activities planned.

I share this story with you to give you some insight into how we protect your student from exposure to viruses and other conditions that some students unknowingly bring onto our programs. With the media coverage surrounding swine flu and the potential for contracting influenza A as students come together, we thought you should know we are taking steps to ensure your child’s health and safety.

The question most often asked by parents during the enrollment process is always “How will People to People ensure the safety of my child?” The answer is that we are proactive with many programs, procedures, and safeguards in place to ensure the risk of any problem is reduced as much as possible. Our program this fall for our World Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C., is just one example of our attention to detail in this matter.

Yesterday we sent an email to every family of delegates traveling to Washington, D.C., during the next three weeks. We will also contact the remaining delegations as we get closer to their departure dates. In these emails, we disclose our plans to prevent any student from contracting influenza A while on our program. This program is very similar to the successful steps we took to ensure no delegate traveled internationally this summer with the H1N1 virus.

The U.S. government no longer tests for swine flu or H1N1 due to the volume of cases already reported, the difficulty in tracking such a high volume, and the cost of the individual tests. Instead, a quick blood test can yield results within 30 minutes that will determine if a patient has influenza A. If this test is positive, it is assumed that the patient has the H1N1 virus.

In our email, we ask if anyone in the family has experienced any of the following symptoms:

  • High fever above 100.4 degrees F
  • Coughing or sneezing
  • Sore throat
  • Body aches
  • Chills and fatigue
  • Diarrhea and vomiting

If their child shows the above symptoms the day prior to travel, we advise the family not to send their child on the program. Instead, we provide many options, one of which includes transferring the delegate to another fall 2009 or spring 2010 program without penalty.

We also advise the families that it is our intent to take the temperatures of each student using a nonintrusive scanner prior to acceptance into our programs. Those few who show significant symptoms will be immediately escorted to a medical professional for evaluation. If they test positive for influenza A, the student will be cared for away from the rest of the delegation and will rejoin the group 48 hours after symptoms have subsided.

We do not anticipate that many students will need to be escorted to a medical facility. Instead, we believe that being proactive and up-front with all families in advance will discourage those few with a sick child from sending them on the program, further ensuring the health and safety of the majority of students who arrive healthy and ready to participate in their life-changing experiences.

I share with you our safety measures not to scare you but to reassure you that our team here at People to People cares deeply about your child and will do all that we can to help them proceed with their great adventure.

With that, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life.