We talk to Dr. Harrison Bush to find out more about her role at Reliance Medical Centers and how her position will lead to better healthcare and wellness for older adults.
Q: “What is your title and role at Reliance?”
A: “I have two primary functions with Reliance as the Vice President of Applied Science and Translation, and the Director of Brain Health and Cognition. First, I am developing a new research department at Reliance to improve the health of patients and individuals in the community. The second part of my role is to create a sector that focuses on brain health and cognition. We know that good brain health and cognition are vital to a person’s overall health and wellbeing, particularly when it comes to older adults, yet specialization in brain health and cognitive aging and thorough cognitive assessment are often lacking in primary care.
Q: “Why has Reliance chosen to integrate brain health and cognition into their primary care facility?”
A: “This is a ground-breaking addition by Reliance. Primary care clinics commonly focus on the physical and pharmaceutical aspects of a person’s healthcare. For example, when a person goes for an annual checkup, general tests to check basic health are conducted, e.g., listening to the heart and lungs, taking blood pressure, running blood tests, etc. These types of tests are effective for indicating a person’s general physical health, but they provide only a limited snapshot. We will go above and beyond traditional testing by offering thorough brain health and cognition screenings using more sophisticated techniques that are typically not used to examine cognition in primary care.
Typically brain health and cognition are examined by a specialist once symptoms have become pronounced. Considering dementia, there are between fifty and one hundred identified causes of dementia—some of these causes of dementia are reversible and can be treated effectively in primary care. However, in cases that will likely progress over time (i.e., neurodegenerative), by the time a specialist has examined a patient, the disease is often in the moderate stages which can impact a patient’s long-term health outcomes. Screening one’s brain health and cognition before symptoms appear or at the earliest indication of impairment can enable us to identify the onset of certain conditions early, so reversible conditions can be properly addressed or therapeutic actions can be taken.”
“Identifying early cognitive impairment enables us to more thoroughly examine the etiology, and recommend appropriate lifestyle changes or other treatments that can improve the patient’s overall health outcomes. Early detection deliberately ties in with the Reliance Wellness Club, which offers a wide range of engaging and enriching activities and programs that support brain health and cognition.
Brain health research including lifestyle factors, risk reduction, and prevention have increased substantially, and part of my job is to stay up to date on all that is going on in the field so that I can ensure Reliance remains a leader in providing unparalleled care to older adults, especially when it comes to optimal aging, mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s disease, and related dementias because research indicates that these conditions are most feared by older adults.”
Q: “Are there other benefits to having advanced notice of these types of conditions?”
A: “Absolutely, even with the early diagnosis of an imminent degenerative cognitive decline that is not reversible, it can still help us avoid a crisis for a patient and their family. We support the patient and family by offering programs created specifically for individuals and their care partners (e.g., spouse, friend) who are recently diagnosed and in the early stages of degenerative cognitive impairment. We also provide, in partnership with the Alzheimer’s Association, training for the caregiver. We introduce the patient to programs and techniques that may help ease some of the uncertainty that often accompanies receiving a cognitive impairment or dementia diagnosis. We ensure that the patient’s treatment plan and medications are discussed, and we ensure that what matters most to the patient is understood by their care team. We provide valuable access to specialists at an earlier stage, so any questions and concerns are addressed.
We ensure the patient and their family comprehend the impact of the condition in advance and are well equipped before a crisis occurs. There are so many ways that we can improve the overall health outcome with early detection that will give peace of mind to patients and their families.”
Q: “Are the research programs and screenings only available to Reliance patients?”
A: “No! Brain health screenings and the opportunity to participate in research trials (pending eligibility) are available to any older adult in the community. Reliance is committed to providing services and support accessible to everyone.”
What stood out in my mind during the interview is the fact that I have heard many primary care clinics talk about having a ‘holistic’ approach to healthcare and yet have no capability to clinically screen or properly examine a person’s brain health or cognitive state. With dementia being one of the most feared conditions in older adults, Reliance Medical Centers truly stands out as a primary care clinic that is undertaking a wide range of innovative and cutting-edge methods to establish its position as the best primary care clinic.
Reliance Medical Center
3655 Innovation Dr.
Monday – Friday: 8am – 5pm
Saturday: 9am – 1pm
Lab: 7am – 4pm
111 Avenue A SE
Monday – Friday: 8am – 5pm
Lab: 7am – 4pm