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Area clinics get distinguished award, optimal-care nod

Dr. E.R. "Doc" Jonas, one of the founders of the Ellsworth Medical Clinic, is surrounded by clinic medical staff (from left to right) -- Kerith Lijewski, Christopher Tashjian and Kurt Helmrick. They are joined by Dr. Janet Wright, executive director of the Million Hearts Initiative, who presented the award to the clinic. <i>Jason Schulte photo</i>1 / 2
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Dr. Christopher Tashjian talks often about the entire Ellsworth Medical Clinic being a team when it comes to patient care.

Friday, Sept. 14, that team effort paid off big as the clinic received one of two nationwide awards from the Million Hearts Initiative, a public-private effort by the Department of Health and Human Services.

The initiative has a goal of preventing a million heart attacks and strokes by 2017.

The award ceremony took place at the River Falls Medical Clinic.

The award was based on the Ellworth clinic's focus on managing hypertension.

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, significantly increases the risk for heart disease or stroke. The national rate for hypertension is around 50 percent.

Since 2007, the Ellsworth Medical Clinic has seen their rates rise from 73 to 97 percent of patients getting their blood pressure under control.

The other award went to the Kaiser Clinics in Denver, Colo.

"Everything we do is centered around our patients," said Tashjian, a physician at the clinic and president of the group. "We provide measurably better care when we include the diabetes educator and the care coordinator."

Dr. Janet Wright, executive director of the Million Hearts Initiative, flew in from Washington, D.C., to present the award to the clinic. She said she heard Tashjian speak at a conference about the clinic's practices and was blown away by what she heard.

"They were executing what we were implementing in theory," she said. "...They were showing the rest of us what the essential principles were. Chris and his team have been a wonderful source of advice. "

To illustrate the importance of the initiative, Wright said Health and Human Services Director Kathleen Sebelius wanted to attend the presentation in person. When her schedule prevented that, the next option was to join by phone, but Wright said she was in meetings all afternoon.

Another factor Tashjian believes that caused the increase was the clinic's switch to electronic medical records, which enabled staff to more carefully track their patients.

"Our feeling is that if we can do it with the limited resources, anyone can," he said. "...Patients put their trust in us and that is something we take very seriously."

The Ellsworth Medical Clinic fared well in another study, as in the October 2012 "Consumer Reports," the clinic was second for Western Wisconsin clinics when looking at optimal care for both diabetes and vascular disease.

Spring Valley was third and River Falls was fifth.

Jason Schulte

Jason Schulte is a reporter for the New Richmond News since February 2015. Prior to that he spent eight years at the Pierce County Herald in Ellsworth. His duties with the News will include covering news out of Hammond and Roberts along with action from St. Croix County court system. He lives in Roberts. 

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