A Diabetes Dashboard Puts the Doctor in the Driving Seat

For effective medical care of diabetic patients the doctor needs to have all the relevant information at his fingertips instead of having to go through many different files to find what he needs to know.  Now a new study shows medics can go one better even than electronic health records by having a “diabetes dashboard” setup showing records.

Diabetics fall into two groups.  Those with type 1 are known as “insulin dependent” because they no longer have functioning beta cells in their pancreases to manufacture insulin.  Generally diagnosed early in life, these people will need medical help all their lives to deal with their condition.  Type 2 diabetics, who are typically diagnosed in middle age or later, may not need to be given insulin but they will also need medical check ups, help and advice for the rest of their lives.

The doctor may start the regular check up appointment with a blood test called HbA1c, which is a test of how well controlled blood sugar levels are.  This enables him to see how well the patient is balancing nutritional intake with their medication or exercise.  However, bearing in mind that diabetes is associated with some serious side effects, he may well ask to do further tests.

Most diabetics will be sent for regular eye examinations, as the disease is known to lead to eyesight problems and even blindness.  He may also send the patient for foot examination to check that diabetic neuropathy, a nerve damage that can leads to gangrene and deformity and in severe cases amputation, is not present.  In addition, he will check the patient’s blood pressure, cholesterol and heart, as these are also health aspects, which can be affected by diabetes.

Some medical centers and doctor’s offices still use old fashioned filing systems with paper content for keeping their medical records, although doctors are increasing turning to information technology to keep records easily updated and readily accessible.  With electronic health records the doctor can look up a patient’s data in seconds with a few clicks of his mouse.

However, with computer technology evolving as time goes on new ways of accessing and displaying information and records are being developed.  The dashboard, named for its resemblance to the instrument panel of a car, puts summarized information on the screen in a way that makes it almost instantly accessible to the user.

A diabetes dashboard can put all the data from a patient’s health record with information such as the result of his last eye examination or other health test in front of the doctor at the appointment.

A recent study compared this new idea with the more conventional way of accessing electronic health records and found the dashboard was faster and easier for the doctor to use.  He took just three mouse clicks to find what he wanted, against around 60 clicks with a normal screen display.  The average time needed for him to collect 10 pieces of information he might commonly need for a diabetic patient was 1.3 minutes with the dashboard, compared to 5.5 minutes using the normal display.

The dashboard made it easier – the doctor using the dashboard was able to identify the material he wanted 100% of the time, compared to a 94% success rate with the normal screen.

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