Health care quality is being addressed from a variety of policy perspectives. The 2001 Institute of Medicine report, Crossing the Quality Chasm, calls for sweeping action involving a five-part strategy for change in the U.S. health care system. This agenda for change includes use of evidence-based approaches to address common conditions, the majority of which are chronic. A Chronic Disease Management System (CDMS), or registry, is a tool that helps providers efficiently collect and analyze patient information to promote quality care for the rural population. CDMSs can provide a technological entry point for the impending use of Electronic Medical Records. A CDMS is a patient-centered electronic database tool that helps providers diagnose, treat, and manage chronic diseases. The purpose of this brief is to discuss the different types of CDMSs used by a sample of 14 state organizations and 19 local rural clinics in Maine, Nebraska, New Mexico, South Carolina, Washington, and Wisconsin. As part of a larger study examining the challenges and innovations in implementing disease management programs in rural areas, we conducted interviews with national, state, and local contacts. During interviews, respondents helped us understand the usefulness and functionalities of commonly used CDMSs in rural facilities. Our focus was on the use of CDMSs in the management of diabetes, a disease prevalent in rural populations.
Key findings: (1) CDMSs are readily available to rural clinics and are being implemented and maintained by clinic staff with minimal expenditures for technology. (2) Use of a standardized system in a collaborative helps provide data comparisons and share costs involved with technical assistance services across the group.