August 13, 2014 (Cincinnati, Ohio): New data on diabetes care shows management of diabetes in Greater Cincinnati patients is improving by healthy margins. YourHealthMatters.org, the community’s only not for profit resource for health care quality ratings, found that 35% of patients with diabetes were now in control of their disease compared to 29% in the previous reporting period.
The data is supplied by nearly 600 local primary care physicians participating in YourHealthMatters. It covers almost 60,000 adult patients with diabetes. The six percentage point change means 3,600 more Greater Cincinnati diabetes patients are managing their condition to optimal results. The measure looks at blood pressure, cholesterol, A1C (blood sugar) smoking and daily aspirin use goals. Patients who achieve all 5 diabetes goals are considered in control of their condition.
“Diabetes control is significant because we know patients in control are living fuller, longer lives and are less likely to have complications such as heart attack, stroke, retinopathy and lower extremity amputation,” said Barb Tobias MD, Medical Director at the Health Collaborative.
There are also cost implications. One large self-insured employer measured the annual cost of an employee with diabetes not in control to be $9,000/year higher than a patient whose condition was well managed. Using that figure, the latest improvement saved the community $32.4-Million dollars in health care costs.
The results can be found on YourHealthMatters.org where primary care physicians voluntarily provide data about the outcomes in their practice. Unlike other physician rating websites which depend on subjective patient feedback to rate doctors, YourHealthMatters.org uses data to score practices on their success in treating patients. “You improve what you measure,” said Craig Brammer, CEO of the Health Collaborative, the organization which runs YourHealthMatters. “We have been measuring diabetes control since 2009 and physicians in our community have been sharing best practices and improving the way they care for patients. We are seeing the work pay off to the benefit of patients across our community.”
St. Elizabeth Physicians, Covington Primary Care improved from 20% of patients in control when it first reported diabetes in 2010 to 40% today, 5 percentage points above the community average. “It’s about putting a team together that is centered around the patient’s needs,” said Dr. Patrick Burns.
The care team has two health care advocates who do detailed follow up with patients between visits. The practice also added a monthly diabetes group where patients can learn and share strategies for better diet, exercise and disease management. Dr Burns says three out of four patients who participate in the Saturday sessions see a dramatic improvement in their A1C levels.
In another example of how care for patients with diabetes has changed, health care advocate Micki Claybern described working one-on-one with a patient who was not following his medication instructions. As she reviewed the instruction sheet with him, she recognized a possible explanation. She asked him if it would help to have her organize his medicine with colors and numbers and he confirmed her suspicion by admitting he could not read. “I asked him to bring me all his medications and we sat there and color coded all his pill boxes. It was just really touching that he was able to allow me to help him in that way,” said Claybern. “He did improve in his diabetes because felt empowered to take his medications on his own.”
About half of the primary care physicians in our community contribute to the public report as a sign of their commitment to transparency and improvement. The report covers diabetes, coronary disease, and colon cancer screening rates. It also reports patient satisfaction results provided by a validated survey tool sent to a random sample of patients in each practice. This method assures ratings cannot be skewed by a handful of patient motivated to post a comment online by a particularly good or bad experience.
“Patients have a right to know how their health care providers score on objective measures and until YourHealthMatters, there was no way for a consumer to get that information from a reliable and available source,” said Judy Hirsh, Director of Consumer Engagement and Programs at the Health Collaborative. “Our community is fortunate to have this resource. Over 3,000 people a month use the website and we think that number will grow as people begin to realize they can make more informed choices about their health care.”
YourHealthMatters recently launched a new version of the website that is mobile responsive. That means the information is now displayed on smart phones and tablets in an easy to read format, as well as standard desk top monitors. It’s the first mobile responsive physician rating tool of its kind in the nation.
YourHealthMatters is made possible through the generosity of Bethesda Inc. and Aligning Forces for Quality, the signature health initiative of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.