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When someone purchases a new car, the dealership mails the customer reminders and a detailed list of its maintenance schedule.

So why don't our doctors do the same for our bodies?

Dennis Horrigan, vice president of managed care development at Independent Health, believes the time has come when doctors will begin doing just that.

Buffalo-based Independent Health recently completed the second year of the Diabetes Disease Management program, which trained 22 doctors in Niagara County caring for 592 diabetes patients here on how to use the best practices already established in the medical world.

More importantly, Horrigan said, it helped set up better lines of communication by giving doctors more information about patients as well as tools to monitor progress, something that is usually lacking in most offices.

The program also establishes a system that can identify patients who aren't meeting their medical goals.

Imagine getting a call from a secretary at your HMO telling you that you haven't kept up with your tests and you need to come in, said Horrigan. Now imagine your primary doctor calling you personally to let you know how important those tests are.

"The best feedback is from patients (who participated in the study) that say, 'I was really thrilled when my doctor called me and said I need some tests done,' " he said. "When they got the call from the doctor it meant something, it meant that someone is reaching out to me."

An evaluation by Harvard researchers found the pilot program improved diabetes test results as well as the quality of life for patients.

That's important because now Independent Health's model of care will be contracted out to private doctors in Western New York who lack resources to monitor and track progress of patients or an action plan to work closer with those who need more help.


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