Innovative programs to help manage chronic conditions
It’s estimated that 29 million U.S. adults have diabetes. This chronic condition has many complications, including diabetic retinopathy, the most common cause of vision loss among people with diabetes.
Diabetic retinopathy often goes undetected until vision loss occurs. That’s in part because people conventionally need to see a specialist for the annual, comprehensive eye exam that may prevent vision loss by catching it early. This means another appointment that requires more time and money.
In Illinois, we launched a pilot program to help improve the screening rates for diabetic retinopathy, particularly in areas lacking in health and economic equity. HCSC is improving screening rates by donating handheld digital cameras to two federally qualified health centers that provide primary care in underserved communities.
Images of the eye taken at the health centers are transmitted to eye specialists, who typically deliver a diagnostic report within 90 minutes. That means the patient doesn’t have to make a separate appointment to see an eye doctor for the screening, and any problems found can be discussed and next steps planned right away.
The participating health centers are providing free screenings for any patient who needs one, regardless of whether the patient is enrolled in a Blue Cross and Blue Shield health plan. Within five months of receiving the equipment, the centers had screened 800 patients.
Learn more about our diabetic retinopathy screening pilot program.
In 2017, 28 health clinics participated in the Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma project throughout Illinois, Montana, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas, to improve pediatric asthma care for high-risk patients. Using nationally recognized care guidelines to address inconsistencies in care, the partnership is providing specialized training at physician offices, federally qualified community health centers, school-based clinics and primary care health centers.
The project is making a difference. On average, participating patients have seen a 50 percent reduction in hospitalizations and emergency-related visits.
The partnership also provides home visits for patients who suffer from poorly controlled asthma. Asthma educators visit the home to identify and remove environmental triggers, including carpet, dust and some cleaning products. To date, we’ve conducted more than 160 home assessments.
In 2017, HCSC was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its work to address environmental triggers as part of a comprehensive asthma program. We received the EPA’s National Environmental Leadership Award in Asthma Management.
In the past five years, the Enhancing Care for Children with Asthma project has provided training and resources to more than 150 clinics and impacted an estimated more than 640,000 people.
Models for Success
The partnership with the American Lung Association goes beyond helping children with asthma and their families. We are now exploring how the asthma intervention model can be used to address other chronic conditions. In 2017, we began working with the American Lung Association in Texas to raise awareness for the prevention and early detection of chronic pulmonary obstruction disease.
Learn more: Community Investments Impact Public Health
Our ongoing collaboration has been crucial when unexpected events jeopardize the communities we serve. When wildfires swept through much of western Montana and seriously impacted air quality, we rallied with our American Lung Association partners to deploy our mobile Care Van® and deliver air purifying filters to schools near the wildfires.
And as Houston and the southern port communities of Texas continue to recover from Hurricane Harvey, we are working together to educate area families on the increased respiratory risks due to excessive exposure to the mold caused by receding floodwaters.
Learn more: A Potential Health Impact from Harvey