LA CROSSE, WI (WXOW)—Wisconsin Ideas Scholars is a group of professors and executives from around the state, recruited by UW-Madison, studying ways to improve the community.
They travel around to communities with best practices in areas like education, agriculture and economic development.
Friday, the group met with a panel at Western Technical College to talk about healthcare.
It's the second of eight stops around the state designed to figure out what's working and what's not.
"Today here in La Crosse we're really excited to learn about the innovative partnerships, the innovation that's happening here in the healthcare systems in the region," Ben Miller, Project Director, Wisconsin Ideas Program said.
One of those innovations is advanced care planning.
"It results in seniors having a chance to say how they want their care and its all about the patient," Dr. Jeffrey Thompson, CEO Gundersen Lutheran said. "It's about how you as an individual get to define what your life is going to look like as opposed to all the talk about dying."
Dr. Thompson said advanced care planning isn't about the paper work, its about having those tough conversations with your family.
"Differences between family members is always an issue but it is so much better to have it worked through when everyone is healthy, we're not in the middle of a crisis and have the time for multiple conversations," Dr. Thompson said.
To put in perspective, less than 50-percent of seniors in other communities have an advanced care plan, but in La Crosse about 95-percent of seniors have a plan.
"What the panel really expressed is the success here in La Crosse is generalizable and scalable and can be used in a large populations of people over big geographic areas." Bernard Hammes, Director of Medical Humanities, Gundersen Lutheran said.
"I think our group will be left with the impression that these are really important conversations," Miller said. "But can take place with a team of professionals bringing in all types of perspectives religious and ethical."
Wisconsin idea scholars are hoping to take what they've learned in La Crosse to improve healthcare in Wisconsin one community at a time.
Next month, the Wisconsin Ideas Program will meet in Milwaukee to talk about K-12 education with principals and education leaders.
After the tour is complete, in February, UW-Madison will talk about what resources they can provide to help community leaders launch some of the new projects.
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