The Medical Minute: Focusing on diabetes care, quality improvement and research

July 18, 2007

By Scott Mincemoyer

The Penn State Diabetes Center is a collaborative effort, utilizing resources from within the various disciplines at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, within Penn State and through partners outside the Penn State system. With a commitment to improving the lives of those with diabetes through patient care, research and education, the center uses a variety of unique tools, including the Diabetes Registry.

The Diabetes Registry is an electronic database used at Penn State University Physician Group family practices, internal medicine and endocrinology offices, as well as for a research project at Reading Hospital. Basically a list of patients with diabetes that attend those clinics, the registry is secure, Web-based and Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-privacy compliant. It can be used to retrieve data specific to an individual, specific to a clinical indicator across a group of patients or specific to a practitioner. It also creates an invaluable resource for researchers seeking to identify potential candidates for participation in research studies.

The registry aims to improve the care of patients by serving as a clinical management tool. In this way, the registry is used during a doctor's office visit. A patient report of several key clinical tests, assessments and treatments provides a snapshot of care and helps providers by organizing critical information as they see their patients. Current lab data is contained in this report with a trended history of the last six visits' data. It also prompts the physician when additional follow-up care may be recommended.

Another helpful function of the registry is the ability to monitor a select group of patients with diabetes. Within a clinic, a practitioner can request a report for his diabetic caseload to check on the group's status of selected clinical indicators, including care updates. An example is identifying all patients in a clinic site that are overdue for their eye exams. This helps the patients get the care they need, making sure nobody is slipping through the cracks.

From a research perspective, the registry, stripped of identifying patient information, can be a valuable source of observations. By understanding trends in care, associations between clinical characteristics and disease outcomes can be obtained. Lists also can be created of potential subjects for clinical research studies. All of these research practices maintain patient privacy and HIPAA compliance.

The Penn State Diabetes Center's Diabetes Registry is being used in several clinics in central Pennsylvania. As a result, nearly 10,000 patients benefit from this clinical management tool and can be reminded of treatments or suggested procedures they otherwise might not pursue.

For more information, e-mail diabetesregsitry@psu.edu or call (800) 393-0782.

Scott Mincemoyer is a registered nurse and manager of the Diabetes Registry at the Penn State Diabetes Center.

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Last Updated March 19, 2009