Research reported by The University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston estimates that as many as one-third of adults have diabetes, many of whom are undiagnosed or not receiving adequate treatment. With Hispanics twice as likely as non-Hispanics to be diagnosed with illness, the impact of diabetes among the Rio Grande Valley’s largely Hispanic population is significant. Its causal effects on medical conditions including heart attacks, strokes, sepsis, leg ulcers, and eye and kidney diseases make the human and financial toll of the illness staggering.

The South Texas counties of Cameron, Hidalgo, Starr, Willacy, Jim Hogg, Webb and Zapata have among the highest rates of Type II diabetes in the United States. Additionally, this region has a large Medicaid population and the highest uninsured rate in the state. These factors reduce a patient’s access to primary health care services, leading many to use emergency rooms for care, resulting in fragmented management of chronic conditions and increased chances for diabetes-related complications.

While preventive measures and disease management programs can greatly reduce the impact of the disease, the low income of much of the region’s population, high uninsured rates and a large segment of medically underserved individuals present challenging barriers for effective treatment.

Recognizing these challenges, the University of Texas Health Science Center of Houston and the Rio Grande Valley Health Information Exchange (RGV HIE) have partnered to establish a diabetes registry and utilized population health management tools to assist physicians who treat patients with diabetes. Data such as disease status, hospital admission, co-morbidities and lab results are entered into the registry. By integrating electronic health records into the RGV HIE, physicians are able to access registry dashboards to help them prioritize and coordinate patient care, including alerts for patients who have not received their recommended care. The tool incorporates data from major health systems and federally qualified health systems in Cameron and Hidalgo and in the future will expand to include information from accountable care organizations. The project is being financed through the state’s 1115 Transformation Waiver.

The RGV HIE service region includes 26 hospitals, clinics and other organizations that provide primary care for the area’s 500,000 residents. The registry will integrate electronic medical records of diabetic patients from those institutions into the region’s growing RGV HIE, allowing the information to be shared among physicians and hospitals across the region.

The improved outcomes resulting from the registry will not only mean better quality of care for diabetic patients, but allow physicians to spend less time analyzing data and more time talking with the patient about managing the condition. Patients will have the ability to authorize who is permitted to access the information.

The diabetes registry was launched on October 2014 and is featured in a case study that is available on the HIETexas website. To view the case study, click here.

Rio Grande Valley HIE Partners with UTHCS to Establish Diabetes Registry