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The Guideline Advantage

Health Care

National Health Groups Collaborate in Quality Program

The Guideline Advantage offers evidence-based, broadly accepted guidelines for clinicians

Published: Tuesday, April 5, 2011 - 07:23

(The Guideline Advantage: Dallas) -- Three major health organizations—the American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association—have collaborated to create a quality improvement program aimed at improving outpatient care nationwide. Working with electronic health records providers from around the country, the program will provide doctors with the ability to easily gather, access, and report on important data that can ultimately lead to improved care and outcomes for patients.

The program, called The Guideline Advantage, targets four of the 10 leading causes of death in the United States today, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes. Modeled after the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s Get With the Guidelines quality suite of programs, the program was first launched in 2009 as Get With the Guidelines—Outpatient, and focused on cardiovascular health. Now, as The Guideline Advantage, the program provides the basis for evaluating and improving outpatient treatment for, and prevention of, these four diseases, which share many similar risk factors.

The Guideline Advantage measures and compares the quality of care given by doctors and other health care providers in practices and clinics outside the hospital setting. The goal is for providers to implement the evidence-based guidelines for caring for patients who have or who are at risk for these conditions, and help improve the way they provide that care. Through the use of electronic health records, the program will also develop a rich database of information for future heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes research.

“The bulk of health care in this country is not at hospitals, but rather in the community, at doctors’ offices and clinics,” says Dr. Vincent Bufalino, the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association’s liaison and steering committee chair of The Guideline Advantage.

“In the case of The Guideline Advantage, ‘outpatient’ refers to the world of office-based medicine, provided by general practitioners, internists, geriatricians, cardiologists, neurologists, oncologists, endocrinologists, and the list goes on,” says Bufalino, who is also president and CEO of Midwest Heart Specialists in Suburban Chicago, a participating practice in The Guideline Advantage.

He believes that clinicians need a single set of evidence-based, broadly accepted guidelines.

“According to evidence-based guidelines, these are the assessments we should be making, the questions we should be asking, and the screenings we should be recommending,” Bufalino says. “Research has proven that, when followed consistently, these guidelines can make a real difference in our fight against these leading killers.”

There are tremendous gaps in the care of people with diabetes, according to Dr. Carol Wysham, chair of the American Diabetes Association Professional Practice Committee and associate clinical professor of medicine at the University of Washington in Spokane. “Many patients are not reaching targets for control of glucose, lipids, and blood pressure—all of which are important for prevention of the devastating complications of diabetes,” Wysham says. “To improve the care of their patients, clinicians need to have a way to measure their success at following guidelines.”

Wysham says The Guideline Advantage initiative will take information from clinicians’ existing electronic health record data and measure performance against the American Diabetes Association’s Standards of Care and similar evidence-based guidelines from the American Cancer Society and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.

“In this way, we can help clinicians assess the quality gaps in their practices, which in turn, helps them identify opportunities to improve the delivery of care to their patients,” notes Wysham.

“Fragmentation is the enemy to effective care,” says Dr. Richard C. Wender, alumni professor and chair of the Department of Family and Community Medicine at Thomas Jefferson University/Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, and The Guideline Advantage liaison and past president of the American Cancer Society. “The public wants clear, consistent health messages. This extraordinary collaboration lays the groundwork to create unified messaging driven by top thought leaders from across the health spectrum. Age-adjusted cancer mortality is falling; slowly but surely, we are making gains. A great deal of our progress can be traced directly to improvements in prevention and early detection.”

Wender added that the program model works because it allows clinicians to gauge their quality based on benchmark data.

“Imagine a health care system with all health care providers gathering quality data, aggregating it, and sharing their progress and best practices with each other so that all can learn and improve,” Wender says. “The Guideline Advantage can help realize that dream.”

An important component of The Guideline Advantage is the collaboration with electronic health record and health technology vendors to ensure consistent and smooth health-record gathering and sharing. Early participants to the program include Forward Health Group Inc., GEMMS, and New Century Health. Several large vendors are in the process of coming on board, including GE Healthcare.

“GE Healthcare is excited to work with these three leading nonprofit organizations toward our mutual goal of reducing costs through early detection and prevention, while increasing access to resources for all,” says Dr. Mark Dente, chief medical informatics officer of GE Healthcare IT.

The Guideline Advantage is the latest initiative of the Preventive Health Partnership, a collaboration of the American Cancer Society, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association to develop and pursue strategies for the prevention and early detection of cancer, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. To learn more, visit www.everydaychoices.org.

The Guideline Advantage program is supported by Medtronic Inc.

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The Guideline Advantage

The American Cancer Society, American Diabetes Association, and American Heart Association/American Stroke Association feel an urgency to put the greatest possible effort behind outpatient prevention and disease management to tackle the nationwide rise in obesity and aging baby boomers. The result is a program called The Guideline Advantage designed for outpatient practices ranging from general health clinics to specialized physician practices. Offered at no cost to health care providers, The Guideline Advantage (formerly known as Get With The Guidelines-Outpatient) supports consistent use of evidence-based guidelines for prevention and disease management through existing health care technology.