Why we’re shining a light on diabetes

Published: Wednesday, November 30, 2022
Family Medicine

After making it a priority to help the community effectively manage diabetes, Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, Longstreet Clinic and other Health Partners Network providers are seeing positive results.

Odds are, you or someone you know have diabetes. It’s incredibly common, affecting more than 37 million Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. That means that about one in 10 Americans have either Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes – and about one in five don’t know they have it at all.

And the condition hits home. The Georgia Department of Public Health reports that 1 million Georgians have been diagnosed with diabetes. Another 230,000 have diabetes but don’t know it.

It’s a serious problem, and it can affect nearly every part of the body, from the eyes to the nerves in the feet. The elevated blood sugar associated with diabetes can also increase your risk of developing other serious health conditions, such as heart disease and kidney disease.

Diabetes that isn’t properly managed — meaning blood sugar remains high — is especially troublesome. Uncontrolled diabetes sends many patients to the doctor each year.

What We’re Doing

Health Partners Network providers including Northeast Georgia Physicians Group, Longstreet Clinic, and other independent practice providers in north Georgia, set goals to help those in our community improve their overall health — a type of healthcare outreach known as “population health.”

These goals included:

  • Improving care coordination between different providers (in other words, making sure all of a patient’s doctors work well together)
  • Ensuring patients receive the diabetes-related education and resources they need
  • Providing patients with support for managing diabetes, including help for checking blood sugar at home, scheduling medical appointments and remembering to take medications
  • Working to help patients lower their blood sugar levels, lowering their A1C levels to a healthier range

Through this work, we were able to identify areas where patient care and self-care could improve and where we could fill in the gaps for those with diabetes. For example, we looked at when patients were due to have their A1C levels checked, as well as the last time they had a recommended diabetic eye exam, lipid level check or feet examination. Armed with that information, we were able to provide these patients with more well-rounded, thorough care.

How It’s Working

As a result of this diabetes management initiative, our providers have seen a significant decrease in patients’ A1C levels. But what does that mean, exactly?

Well, A1C is one test used to monitor blood sugar. This blood test measures a patient’s average blood sugar over a three-month period. Experts recommend that those who have diabetes aim for an A1C of less than 7%. An A1C level of 9% or higher is considered poor diabetes management.

As of 2018, approximately 11% of patients being treated within this program had an A1C level in the “poorly managed” category. By 2021, that number had dropped to 7.56% — marking a nearly 31% improvement in the three-year period.

As the program moves forward, the goal is to continue to help those in our communities better manage diabetes and their overall health. With improved technology and better communication and coordination we can empower our patients and all Georgians to take better control of their health.

To learn more about our population health efforts, visit nghs.com/population-health.

About Health Partners Network

Health Partners Network is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Northeast Georgia Health System, in partnership with regional physicians and hospitals. We are a preferred provider organization (PPO) comprised of over 900 physicians, 10 hospitals and 150 ancillary providers covering a 16+ county service area throughout northeast Georgia.