Diabetic patients report better care with use of Web-based PHRs

By Bernie Monegain
10:32 AM

Hundreds of diabetic patients in the Washington, D.C. area have adopted an online personal health record to communicate with their doctors and manage their disease, according to Howard University Hospital.

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the D.C. area, according to the District of Columbia Department of Health. Howard University Hospital's Diabetes Treatment Center is one of the first healthcare providers in the region to integrate the hospital's electronic medical record with a patient-focused PHR to manage diabetes treatment online.

The PHR, developed by Fort Wayne, Ind.-based NoMoreClipboard.com, was made available to diabetic patients as part of an initiative launched earlier this summer offering diabetes testing and treatment to underserved residents in the five city wards with the highest incidence of the disease.

Funded by a District of Columbia Department of Health grant, doctors and technicians from the Diabetes Treatment Center, accompanied by a mobile unit, traveled to various area locations from June 2008 to September 2009 to screen hundreds of residents for diabetes. All encounters on the mobile unit were documented in an EMR system, and patients were offered a free PHR from NoMoreClipboard.com. On-site staff helped patients set up their accounts, which were populated with electronic information from the mobile unit encounter – including demographic information, labs, medications and allergies. The information was then incorporated into the hospital's electronic medical record.

"If left untreated, a chronic disease like diabetes can lead to blindness, amputation and kidney disease," said Gail Nunlee Bland, MD, director of the Diabetes Treatment Center. "A personal health record helps patients and their physicians take an active role in managing their disease, which will also prevent some of the expensive complications that could arise down the road."

With the NoMoreClipboard.com PHR, diabetic patients can share their health records with physicians, clinics, emergency rooms and other places where they seek treatment.

"We're seeing the benefits of the personal health record already," Bland said. "It's improving care coordination, reducing duplicate tests and giving everyone involved a more complete and accurate clinical picture."

Jeff Donnell, chief marketing officer at NoMoreClipboard.com, said when combined with a hospital's EMR, a PHR can have powerful benefits.

"The Howard PHR takes clinical information from the hospital and makes it accessible to patients who are often struggling to manage the data associated with a chronic condition," he said. "Wherever patients with the Howard PHR seek treatment, they are better able to share relevant information that can improve outcomes and reduce unnecessary costs."