Health care heroes provide comprehensive, coordinated care

At Highland Springs, expert medical care is just steps from your door

Created date

July 14th, 2020
Dr. Mary Norman, medical director at Highland Springs, is a member of the community’s executive team implementing new policies and procedures to keep residents healthy and safe from the threat of the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Mary Norman, medical director at Highland Springs, is a member of the community’s executive team implementing new policies and procedures to keep residents healthy and safe from the threat of the COVID-19 virus.

Dr. Mary Norman, a 10-time recipient of the D Magazine “Top Doc” award, leads the medical team at Highland Springs in North Dallas. Norman’s decision to accept the position at Highland Springs team in 2007, was influenced by their comprehensive team approach to senior health care. 

“Highland Springs gave me the opportunity to be part of a community, to interact with my patients where they live,” said Norman. “Here we have a whole team of subspecialists, social workers, therapists, nurses, home health aides, and a team trained in emergency response, all working together to provide the best possible care. It’s an amazing way to practice medicine.”

Highland Springs’ comprehensive care model ensures that residents have access to expert medical care right on campus. The on-site medical center is staffed by Norman, full-time physicians, and a nurse practitioner who devote their professional expertise solely to this community. 

“Because we practice exclusively at Highland Springs, we have the luxury of spending an hour with new patients and a half hour for follow-up appointments,” added Norman. “That’s huge. At a traditional medical practice, the expectation is that you’re seeing people every 10 or 15 minutes.”

Highland Springs’ medical center also offers same-day appointments, so community members don’t have to wait long to see a health care professional.

“About 25% of our appointments are on a same-day basis,” said Norman. “We’re committed to doing everything we can to help our community members achieve their health and wellness goals.”

Global shift in health care practices

As the COVID-19 virus impacted communities across the world, America’s healthcare system has been continuously challenged in ways never experienced in modern times. Health and wellness were the foremost concern, upending all normal routines and procedures. In response to the crisis, Highland Springs’ medical center quickly adapted a new model of delivering care, keeping the well-being of its community members at the forefront of all decisions.

“This is an incredibly important time in our history together here at Highland Springs,” said Norman. “We’re finding creative solutions and learning new ways to adapt as we try to stop the spread of the virus.”

In response to the president’s emergency declaration, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services broadened access to telehealth services so beneficiaries could receive a wider range of services from doctors and other health care workers without seeing them in person.

What is telehealth care?

Telehealth care or telemedicine leverages electronic information and communications technologies to provide remote clinical health care. Originally designed to address access to care issues in areas with shortages of specialty care providers, telehealth care has grown exponentially during the COVID-19 pandemic to screen and diagnose patients without risking the spread of disease. Telemedicine is an evidence-based, safe alternative for delivering acute, chronic, primary, and specialty care across the country. 

“We were able to quickly get the process of implementing telehealth visits underway,” said Susan Turek, medical practice manager at Highland Springs. “It’s important for residents to keep their appointments, both routine and acute, so we can make sure they’re safe and sound.”

Taking every precaution, with telehealth care

As mentioned, the medical team at Highland Springs utilized telemedicine to ensure continuity in care while preventing spread of the virus. Using an iPhone, iPad, Android phone, or computer, residents were able to connect to a telehealth visit with one of Highland Springs’ physicians or nurse practitioners.

“Our medical office assistant called each patient the day before their appointment to make sure they had full connectivity,” added Turek. “Then on the day of the appointment, the assistant called again to begin the visit, just as they would when a patient comes into the office for a face-to-face appointment.”

Using virtual technology, the assistant discussed medical history with patients, asked about medications and any problems, and noted as many vitals as possible if the community member had a scale, thermometer, and/or blood pressure cuff in their apartment. 

The assistant also provided a window of time when the physician or nurse practitioner would call. After the visit with the health care provider, the assistant called back to schedule a follow-up appointment, as needed.

“The process required more phone calls than usual, but we were able to see almost the same number of patients we would normally see in the medical center,” said Turek.

Stronger together

Erickson Living-managed communities banded together to keep residents safe at home and flatten the curve across the country. And new procedures brought about unexpected benefits.

“Our partnerships with our subspecialists have grown stronger during this time,” said Norman. “We’re communicating more than ever and finding new ways to work together, all with the same goal of keeping our residents as safe and healthy as possible.”

Community members at Highland Springs showed their appreciation for staff members with “ovations,” scheduled moments when they’d come out on their patios or porches to clap and cheer.

“That was such a welcomed experience,” said Norman. “To hear the claps and to witness the spirit of camaraderie was heartwarming. We all want to partner together to keep each other safe and to make the wisest decisions possible.”

Thanks to the ongoing commitment of residents and staff to effectively combat COVID-19, Highland Springs was able to safely reopen select amenities and medical services, in alignment with CDC, state, and local infection prevention protocols.

Confidence in comprehensive, coordinated care

For Jim Atkins, who moved to Highland Springs in 2012, the medical team’s flexibility, consistent communication, and professionalism in the face of the COVID-19 outbreak came as no surprise.

“I had the opportunity to meet Dr. Norman at several medical conferences before I moved to the community,” says Jim. “She’s one of the reasons I chose Highland Springs, and she’s been my primary care physician ever since I moved in. You won’t find a better doctor anywhere else.”

Jim says the daily updates by Executive Director Matt Neville and Norman, which aired on the community’s in-house television channel and available on the My Erickson app, were especially helpful in disseminating information while the shelter-in-place mandate was in effect.

“We could all turn on the news in our apartments and see what was happening across the city and the state, but what mattered most to us was what was happening here in the community,” said Jim. “We were informed about every new process and procedure as they were unfolding.”

Life at Highland Springs

Since opening its 89-acre campus in 2006, Highland Springs has been a thriving independent living community for seniors that offers a maintenance-free lifestyle with world-class amenities. Staff and residents alike take pride in the Highland Springs community and always look forward to welcoming a new neighbor. Request a brochure today to learn more about life at Highland Springs!