BACKGROUND: Diabetes in particular presents an ideal opportunity for the incorporation of information technology (IT) in the provision of care. The disease is highly prevalent in managed care populations, is frequently associated with comorbid conditions, and requires multiple medications in its management. Furthermore, effective diabetes care involves the monitoring of several measures of disease control, such as hemoglobin A1c (A1c) and lipid levels, by several different levels of providers, such as physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, pharmacists, and dieticians. All of these factors combined make diabetes an opportune disease state for a case study of the implementation of health information technology (HIT) in managed care.
OBJECTIVE: To review practical applications of HIT for improving the delivery of care in diabetes management.
SUMMARY: Between 1990 and 2002, the incidence of type 2 diabetes increased by 61% in the United States. The total costs associated with diabetes have been increasing since the late 1970s as well, with a more dramatic rise over the last 10 years. In fact, the total cost of diabetes in the United States will approach $200 billion per year by the year 2020. In order to improve diabetes management efforts nation wide, the goal of glucose lowering therapy has been recommended to lower the hemoglobin A1c (A1c) to < 7% and keep it below that level long term. Other measures beyond A1c levels have also been identified as being important components to effective diabetes management and incorporated into national treatment recommendations, providing an ideal opportunity for the incorporation of HIT interventions. These interventions have been aimed at 3 different groups of stakeholders in managed care: payers, providers, and patients.
CONCLUSIONS: While uncontrolled diabetes remains a major concern in managed care from both a health and a cost perspective, implementation of information technology enabled diabetes management (ITDM) has demonstrated significant potential for improving processes of care, preventing the development of diabetic complications, and generating cost savings. ITDM improves the synthesis of information, the delivery of knowledge, and the efficiency of communication, allowing for coordination of care across delivery teams. Of the existing technologies targeting providers, patients, and payers, provider centered interventions, such as diabetes registries currently show the most potential for benefit in improving outcomes and reducing costs.