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Do you see what they see?

Eye surgeon, Samuel Solish, MD likes what he sees in Maine.  While practicing in California a decade ago, nearly every week he would treat at least one diabetic patient with vision problems that he felt could have been avoided.

Today in his practice in Portland, he rarely sees a diabetic patient with less than normal eye exam results, despite the fact that Maine has the highest rate of non-pregnancy related diabetes in New England.  Solish is amazed at how well cared for diabetic patients in Maine are and claims, “Maine is a wonderful place for a doctor to work, there is a real team spirit here among physicians and they are united in their desire to help patients”.

Phil Goldwaith, O.D., who practices in Bangor and is the immediate past President of the Maine Optometric Association, also sees the results of primary care doctors and patients working together in Maine to reduce the complications of diabetes.  In the last 5 years he and fellow optometrists around the State, have noticed a “tremendous increase in the number of diabetic patients referred by their primary care providers for eye exams”.  He believes efforts to improve communication between the two specialties has also helped to prevent patients from falling through the cracks.  Now, if a primary care physician does not get a report back on a patient, they know there is a good chance that the patient did not go to the optometrist and that they need to call the patient and remind him or her of the importance of their eye examination. 

Both Solish and Goldwaith, also credit primary care doctors in the State for following the care that experts recommend when treating patients, and also in pushing patients to take good care of themselves.   Solish said that he often heard “doctors in California say that patients did not listen to them but I am not sure, patients there were always told the right things to do.” “ In Maine”, he continued  “it it obvious, that they are.”   And physicians are not the only persons to observe changes to the Maine healthcare system.  Click HERE to hear one patient’s story of her experiences with diabetes and her primary care team, as reported by NBC News in Portland.

Providing patients with medical advice that the experts recommend is also leading to other positive outcomes.   Federal studies show that Maine diabetics are hospitalized at half the rate of other diabetics in the U.S. with complications of their disease.   The Maine Health Management Coalition Foundation CEO, Elizabeth Mitchell knows her organization has played a role in improving health care quality in Maine.  For the past seven years the Coalition has been publishing data on health care quality, and during that time the quality of health care delivered in Maine has improved.  In fact, according the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (a part of the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services) in 2009 Maine had the greatest improvement in measured health care quality of any state in the nation. Maine currently ranks 4th best overall in the U.S. in health care quality (up from 12th the year before). “Maine’s improved ranking shows what is possible when providers, insurers, employers and patients work together toward improving health care quality,” said Elizabeth Mitchell, CEO, Maine Health Management Coalition,” but there is more work ahead to provide the highest level of care to Maine patients.” For example, the AHRQ rankings show that for Maternal and Child Health Measures, Maine barely reaches the average category. Other areas needing improvement include nursing home care and cancer.  Efforts are underway to begin to report on at least some of these services. Within the next 12 months data regarding some of these troubling categories will be available on the GetBetterMaine website. 

A snapshot of Maine’s ranking can be found at http://statesnapshots.ahrq. gov/