Improved glycemic control in veterans with poorly controlled diabetes mellitus using a Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes model at primary care clinics

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INTRODUCTION: An increasing number of patients with diabetes mellitus has created a need for innovative delivery of specialized care not only by diabetes specialists but also by primary care providers (PCPs) as well. A potential avenue to address this need is training of PCPs by specialists via telehealth. The Veteran Affairs (VA) Specialty Care Access Network-Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes (SCAN-ECHO) program includes education and case-based learning for PCPs by a multidisciplinary specialty team utilizing videoconferencing technology.

METHODS: Two PCPs completed a year of SCAN-ECHO diabetes training. These two PCPs set up "diabetes mini-clinics" to treat difficult-to-control high-risk patients with diabetes mellitus from their own panel and from their colleagues in the same community-based outpatient clinic (CBOC). We utilized a retrospective program evaluation by t-test using pre/post glycated hemoglobin (HbA1c) lab values after being seen by the two PCPs.

RESULTS: A total of 39 patients, all with HbA1c > 9.0%, were seen in the two PCP mini-clinics over 15 months. The mean HbA1c improved from 10.2 ± 1.4% to 8.4 ± 1.8% (p < 0.001) over the average follow-up period of five months. This was not explained by system-wide changes or improvements.

DISCUSSION: Care of veteran patients with poorly controlled diabetes by PCPs who participated in SCAN-ECHO program leads to improvement in glycemic control. This model of health care delivery can be effective in remote or rural areas with limited availability of specialists.