West Michigan diabetes care exceeding averages

January 4, 2011
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Adult diabetics cared for by doctors in five large West Michigan practices top national averages in three key health measurements, the Alliance for Health found in a project funded by a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant.

The project is an attempt to focus on the quality of health care, said Lody Zwarensteyn, Alliance for Health president. Grand Rapids is one of 17 communities nationwide that received “Aligning Forces for Quality” grants from the New Jersey-based foundation.

“In the long run, if we are going to make a dent in our system on cost, you really have to touch on quality,” Zwarensteyn said. “Quality work is less expensive than ‘un-quality.’”

The report, the second produced by the Alliance for Health under the grant, showed that each of the five practices beat national averages for the proportion of adult diabetic patients who met standards for levels of hemoglobin A1C, blood pressure and low-density lipid cholesterol. It is based on 2009 data.

Practices included in the report were Advantage Health Physician Network, Lakeshore Health Network, Metro Health PHO, MMPC and Spectrum Health Medical Group. MMPC is now part of Spectrum Health.

Zwarensteyn said that more than half of local doctors are members of those organizations.

Dr. Brad Clegg, chief medical information officer at Metro Health, said he hopes the report encourages people to participate in their own care.

“My concern with the numbers is the numbers,” he said.

Clegg noted that the data is a year old, the statistical significance of differences between each practice is not determined and that there are additional metrics to consider in diabetes treatment.

Part I of the report looked at 2007 Medicare data on patients from Advantage Health Physician Network, Lakeshore Health Network, Metro Health PHO, MMPC. It looked at the proportion of Medicare patients who were given certain tests, not at test results.

That report showed that the four doctors’ groups beat the region, state and nation for the proportion of diabetic Medicare patients receiving the tests. Those tests were the A1c, LDL, eye exams and kidney function tests.

In 2008, one in 12 West Michigan residents had diabetes, which is an inability to produce or use insulin to regulate glucose. The disease costs the U.S. $174 billion annually in health care use and time away from work.

More information is available at www.rethinkhealthy.org

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