A revolutionary Western Health program dubbed ‘artificial intelligence’ for GPs is improving the detection of diabetes across the state.
Western Health Chronic Disease Alliance (WHCDA) researchers have created the screening software to enable the early detection of patients at high risk of diabetes or those unknowingly living with the disease.
The innovative program, called CD IMPACT (Chronic Disease early detection and Improved Management in Primary Care project), has been trialled at more than 16 GP clinics in metropolitan and regional areas, and alerts doctors to patients with abnormally high blood glucose levels.
The program is particularly important in Melbourne’s western region, which has the unenviable title of being one of Australia’s biggest diabetes hotspots.One third of all Western Health inpatients are affected, while rates of diabetes in Melton and Brimbank local government areas are higher than the national average of 5.1 per cent (sitting at 7 per cent and 6.5 per cent respectively).
Western Health’s Head of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Associate Professor Shane Hamblin, said the results of the trial were promising, as it was crucial that diabetes was picked up earlier.
“We often see patients who come in with complications of diabetes, but what we want to do is nip it in the bud to manage it earlier and more efficiently,” said Assoc Prof Hamblin.
“This software program sits behind the scenes and prompts GPs to recognise that someone has diabetes. It brings it to the GP’s attention when they are often dealing with a lot of information, and, down the track, can help them build up a picture of how many patients have diabetes in that clinic. If in three, six, or nine months’ time, they discover it was more than they thought, they can ask themselves if the patients are being managed according to best practice guidelines.”
He said it was hoped the program would be adopted by GP clinics around Australia for a range of chronic diseases.
If not caught early, Type 1 and 2 diabetes can have devastating impacts including amputations, heart attacks, kidney disease and stroke.
The program, a collaboration between Western Health, Victoria University and the University of Melbourne, and with input from GPs and practice nurses, was initially focussed on detecting kidney disease and has been broadened to a range of other chronic diseases.
These details are being released ahead of World Diabetes Day on November 14, a global awareness campaign led by the International Diabetes Federation. This year the focus is on diabetes and the family, an issue close to the heart of Western Health patient Sam Tana, 51.
Mr Tana was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in June this year after first being diagnosed with the more common Type 2 in 2005, and also has family members with the disease.
He said his experience has made him more determined to educate his own children on the importance of getting checked.
“Looking back now to when I was first diagnosed with Type 2, I don’t think I truly realised the consequences, and I ignored it,” he said.
“I wish I paid more attention back then. But I have passed on my experience to my son and family and made them more aware of it, and the signs to look out for.”
The CD IMPACT project is one of a number of research programs being undertaken by the WHCDA, an evolving partnership between Western Health, the University of Melbourne’s Department of General Practice, Kidney Health Australia, Diabetes Victoria, Heart Foundation, Stroke Foundation, Primary Healthcare Networks and Victoria University’s Centre for Chronic Disease Prevention and Management.
The alliance’s research aims to improve the early detection and management of chronic diseases such as chronic kidney disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. The project is made possible through research funding and philanthropic donations.
Western Health has established a specific research fund to support work on chronic diseases such as diabetes. Donations to the CDA help to fund community research and outreach programs can be made at Western Health Chronic Disease Alliance.
Photo credit: Star Weekly.