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Diabetes treatment by Allegheny Health Network gets a boost with $6M grant

Ben Schmitt
| Friday, Nov. 18, 2016, 3:24 p.m.
Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh's North Side.
Allegheny General Hospital in Pittsburgh's North Side.

Allegheny Health Network has received a $6 million grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to better confront diabetes, a chronic disease that afflicts more than 29 million people in the United States.

The grant money, announced Friday by the hospital system, will be allocated to support new initiatives of the AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health.

“The current health care system faces many significant challenges, including unsustainable costs, poor consumer experience, and the need for better health outcomes. Those challenges are especially glaring with regard to the management of chronic diseases like diabetes,” said Dr. Charles DeShazer, vice president and executive medical director at AHN's parent company Highmark Blue Cross Blue Shield. “AHN's plan for transforming diabetes care is an ideal, scalable model that leverages technology, primary care, in-home and community based services to make it less burdensome for patients to manage their diabetes. This in turn will drive better clinical results and reduce the substantial economic burden associated with the disease.”

The new care model will focus on holistic assessment to better understand individual needs of patients. Some of the care includes retinal screening for early detection and treatment of complications that may impair vision along with monitoring of glucose, lipids and blood pressure in an effort to reduce the risk of other systemic complications that can accompany diabetes.

The AHN team will use technology for patients to receive care and counseling they need, including doctor consultations by phone, or tele-visits, and a cloud-based platform known as Glooko for remote monitoring of blood glucose levels.

“In the past, maintaining sufficient interaction with patients often meant they would need to spend considerable time away from work and their everyday lives,” said Dr. Patricia Bononi, medical director of the AHN Center for Diabetes and Endocrine Health. “Technology now allows us to better monitor patients remotely in our day-to-day management of the disease, and provides an added level support that does not require trips to the doctor's office.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that as many as one in three people could have diabetes by 2050.

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