As with all chronic diseases, an important aspect of diabetes treatment involves maintaining the necessary comprehensive prevention and management programs to control the disease.
Because of their inherent transitory nature and the fact that a large portion of their client base suffers from diabetes, maintaining these programs becomes a particular challenge for free, walk-in clinics totally supported by donations and staffed by volunteers. The problem is magnified in most people because of a lack of funds for a computer-based records program. Free clinics are not eligible for federal electronic health record incentive plans.
At Our Lady of Angels St. Joseph Medical Clinic in Pensacola, this hurdle has been significantly lowered. Bryan Daniel, a recent University of West Florida College of Science and Engineering graduate, and the clinic’s Dr. Norman McFadden have developed a Web-based registry. It manages the clinic’s approximately 170 patients who have Type 2 diabetes and related disorders.
“This was the ultimate answer to the question of, How can we do this (keep track of patients) better?” McFadden said. “Ease of use has made the staff happy, and the tracking of the patients’ data has certainly had a positive impact.”
The database is modeled after the Chronic Disease Electronic Management System, which has been in use since 2002, and the recommendations of the American Diabetes Association. It includes screenings, check-ups, monitoring and coordinating care, and patient education. Enhancements to the software include features that allow it to be also used as a simple electronic health record, and the Web-based configuration allows other clinics to share the software.
“Communication was the key to building such a useful program,” said Daniel, a Navarre resident and father of six. “We were meeting face to face and constantly emailing, so I could make adjustments that the clinic needed. I couldn’t be more thrilled that it’s working and doing a lot of good for the community.”
The Escambia County clinic was established in 2002 by a small group of local doctors and parishioners. Fulfilling its mission to provide medical and dental services for uninsured, low-income patients, it had more than 8,000 medical patient and 622 dental patient visits in 2015. Approximately 69 licensed health care providers and 31 general staff volunteers account for more than 20,000 volunteer hours per year.
What makes the computer program even more exciting, said McFadden, is that “it can be easily shared and used by other small clinics in similar financial situations.” There are more than a 1,000 free clinics around the U.S.
Dr. Robert Hoyt of UWF’s College of Health wrote a paper about McFadden and Daniel’s project, and will present this innovative diabetes registry program to the American Medical Informatics Association iHealth Clinical Informatics Conference May 4-6 in Minneapolis.
Dr. Hoyt said he wrote the paper because he thinks that the creation of the diabetes computer program is an excellent example of how UWF can collaborate with the Pensacola community to innovate and provide expertise to communities of need.
This article is part of a collaboration between WUWF and the UWF Center for Research and Economic Opportunity.