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Texas ACO uses onsite testing to improve Type 2 diabetes metrics

June 13, 2016
by Pamela Tabar, Editor-in-Chief
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In just two years, a Texas accountable care organization (ACO) has seen a three-fold increase in the number of people who are succeeding in maintaining their type 2 diabetes blood glucose goals. The dramatic results stemmed from a two-year pilot to incorporate point-of-care HbA1c testing, care coordinators and nutritionists to take a vigilant approach to diabetic testing and maintenance.

The Rio Grande Valley ACO, headquartered in Donna, Texas, has eight locations in Texas and New Jersey, including in some of the poorest counties in the country. Nearly one-third of the ACO’s patient population has type 2 diabetes and most of them receive Medicare benefits.

The type 2 diabetes program enrolled more than 6,000 patients with diabetes from 2012 through 2014. During that time span, the number of patients who had healthy control over their diabetes skyrocketed from 12 percent to 49 percent. The ACO also saw a 14 percent reduction of its Medicare costs during that time, said CEO and Chief Medical Director Jose F. Peña, MD, in a presentation of the program’s results at this week’s American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in New Orleans.

“The results of our program are especially gratifying because they show that [type 2 diabetes] can be successfully and cost-effectively managed among patients who are traditionally difficult—and expensive—to treat,” Peña said in press release for Alere, the maker of the testing and assay equipment used in the program. “We now know definitively that there is no ‘silver bullet’ when it comes to managing T2DM. Healthcare providers need to use a wide range of interventions and strategies, including rapid point-of-care testing, frequent phone calls by care coordinators and others that are culturally tailored to their patients.”

National health organizations, including the American Diabetes Association, recommend twice-a-year testing for those with stable blood glucose and quarterly testing for those who are not meeting glycemic goals. Yet less than seven percent of people receive the recommended testing for their conditions, notes a 2014 article in Current Medical Research and Opinion journal.

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