FORT KENT — No one would think of buying a new car or home without first doing some serious market research.
Those working with quality control and assurance at one northern Maine hospital believe their patients should take the same approach when looking at their health care.
Northern Maine Medical Center’s Chronic Illness Registry is providing patients and health care providers with a secure online database for tracking clinical information.
“We have a large volume of patients that we can now track along with their treatment,” Sue Devoe, NMMC director of quality, said. “This registry allows us to track that treatment and how well they are progressing.”
While chronic illnesses include asthma, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and depression, the NMMC registry currently tracks only patients with cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
According to Devoe, that’s nearly 2,000 patients between the hospital’s Fort Kent and Madawaska clinics. She adds there are plans to expand the registry to pediatric and adult asthma patients at the start of the coming year.
Hospitals are not required to have such a registry, but Devoe said it is a valuable tool for both doctors and patients.
“The doctors can document and follow treatment through these consolidated reports,” she said. “The patients can use that information to track their own treatment progress.”
In addition, the registry information facilitates continuity of care for the patients when more than one doctor is involved in treatment.
With the system, physicians who may be new or unfamiliar with a specific case are able to access the registry for complete diagnostic and treatment information.
The information also is passed along to the Maine Health Management Coalition which uses it to rate the state’s hospitals.
“Patients can look up that information on the coalition’s Web site,” Devoe said. “It’s never been possible before to provide that aggregate data [to the health management coalition] so they can then say, ‘Yes, you are doing a good job.’”
According to the Maine Health Management Coalition’s Web page at www.mhmc.info, NMMC earned the highest blue ribbon rating in all three categories — patient satisfaction, patient safety and select clinical quality.
“We feel very good about that,” Martin Bernstein, NMMC executive director, said. “We are about quality care here.”
Bernstein said the registry and information available through the health coalition allow people to make informed decisions when looking for health care providers.
“If I’m going to go buy a car I’ll read Consumer Reports for the ratings,” he said. “What’s more important than your own health or the health of your family?”
While Bernstein said quality health care cannot wholly be reduced to numbers and statistics, the registry is “one guideline that is helpful in making decisions.”