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Making a difference in The Diabetes Belt

  • Jeanne Armstrong, M.D.
  • 03/08/2016

The Mississippi Delta, a region in the American South along the Mississippi River, faces higher rates of diabetes than the rest of the United States. In fact, the Center for Disease Control has identified the area as part of “The Diabetes Belt,” where 11.7% of people have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared to outside the belt with only 8.5% of the population.

The Delta Health Alliance (Stoneville, Mississippi, U.S.A.) shared how it is using Allscripts solutions to manage diabetes care for better clinical and financial outcomes in a recent case study and video:

A lack of physicians in the Mississippi River Delta region can limit patients’ access to health care. Providers need solutions that can help identify and improve communication with at-risk patients. To help meet demand for proven technology, the Delta Health Alliance is a collaboration of 60 Federally Qualified Health Center, rural health and private-practice physicians focused on researching the best methods.

“We have doctors who are very passionate about treating diabetes in the Delta,” Assistant Vice President of Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Daniel Thomas said. “Through the Beacon project and using Allscripts solutions, doctors are able to give the same level and quality of care to these patients that they would receive in major metropolitan areas.”

With a three-year federal Beacon grant from the ONC, Delta Health Alliance implemented several programs in 17 rural counties to improve care for diabetic patients. Working through the Mississippi Health Information Network, the state’s health information exchange (HIE), Delta Health Alliance implemented various programs throughout four hospitals and 37 clinical practices throughout the Delta.

Care Guides enable enhanced disease monitoring

Delta Health Alliance incorporated best practices and national care standards into Allscripts TouchWorks® EHR and developed Care Guides. These tools help clinicians by alerting them to evidence-based tests, medications, education and other requirements for specific patients and diagnoses.

The Beacon grant provided funding to implement the diabetes Care Guide with specific reminders for the types of tests that diabetic patients require more frequently, including glucose screenings, hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) tests, foot examinations and eye screenings. Implementing these Care Guides in 29 targeted Delta clinics, clinicians used them during 31,000 examinations.

“Using TouchWorks and the Care Guides through our Beacon project, we were able to show a statistically significant decrease in HbA1c values for our participating patients,” Thomas said. “We lowered obesity and [Body Mass Index], and we actually showed the ability to control blood pressure. It’s all documented in the [TouchWorks] EHR.”

To learn more about how Delta Health Alliance is helping to improve diabetes care in the Delta, download a free case study. If you’re attending AMGA Annual Conference (Orlando, Florida, U.S.A.) this week, stop by Allscripts Booth 821.

Editor’s Note: The Delta Health Alliance gratefully acknowledges support of this project through the Office of National Coordinator Grant Number 90BC0004-01.

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About the author

Jeanne Armstrong, M.D., is director of solutions management for Allscripts TouchWorks® EHR and is a practicing physician at Hendricks Regional Health Immediate Care (Avon, Indiana, U.S.A.).With more than a decade of experience in healthcare IT, Dr. Armstrong has in-depth knowledge in EHR training, system configuration, content development and change management. Dr. Armstrong is board certified in Family Medicine and Clinical Informatics and completed her family medicine residency at St. Vincent Hospital in Indianapolis, Indiana. At St Vincent, she designed and facilitated a physician training program and support process for a community-based academic medical center with four (eventually five) residency programs, overhauled workflow and content to create a paperless immediate care, developed system content for multiple specialties, and helped facilitate an electronic data conversion between competing EHR systems. Dr. Armstrong earned a Certificate in Clinical Informatics, Clinician Leader from Indiana University, earned her medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine, and holds a bachelor’s degree from Franklin College of Indiana.

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