Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, is offering an approach to care known as Diabetes Population Care Management. This system gathers comprehensive information about all aspects of a patient’s medical treatments.
“It’s imperative that our employees have optimal health care, especially those employees who live with chronic diseases who need regular, ongoing treatment,” says Tom Davies, regional health care manager for GTE. “Healthy employees are happy employees.”
Davies’s comments stem from a disturbing figure stating that in 1997, more than $27 billion was spent for hospital services associated with diabetes. According to a Kaiser Permanente press release, caring for people with diabetes costs nearly four times more than caring for a member without the disease, due to increased outpatient visits, lab services, drugs and the cost of treating complications of the disease, including hospital care and additional medical procedures. A Kaiser Permanente spokesperson says that these complications are preventable, or can be delayed, with aggressive diabetes management.
The key elements of the diabetes care program illustrate this strategy:
- Computerized diabetes registries link electronic data from pharmacy, laboratory, hospital and outpatients systems to identify patients and improve care.
- Multidisciplinary teams of primary care physicians, eye specialists, dietitians, social workers and health educators provide coordinated services.
- Clinical practice guidelines developed by physicians identify which medical approaches work best in which situations.
- Health education through classes, groups and videos help patients with diabetes learn self-care strategies.
- Phone calls and letters offer encouragement and remind members of appointments.
Results from the initial pilot program showed a reduction in hospital admissions by 29 percent for patients with diabetes with related heart attacks between 1994 and 1997. In addition, hospitalizations of Kaiser members with diabetes dropped from 338 per 1,000 in 1994 to 318 per 1,000 in 1997.