HealthPartners, a not-for-profit health maintenance organization of Bloomington, Minn., and VitalSims, a healthcare education company of Minneapolis, Minn., are partnering to improve care for patients with chronic diseases through a joint venture, SiMCare Health.
The first SiMCare program—SiMCare Diabetes—will help providers ensure that patients get the best possible care while also reducing overall medical costs. Twelve years in the making, SiMCare Health medical education programs are web-based accelerated learning simulations based on thousands of actual patient encounters. HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research developed SiMCare Diabetes with federal grant money from the National Institutes of Health and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and in collaboration with the University of Minnesota.
SiMCare Diabetes trains physicians, advanced practice providers, pharmacists and other health care professionals to effectively diagnose and treat type 1 and type 2 diabetes. In helping these ‘virtual’ patients better manage their diabetes, providers decide when and how often to bring patients into the clinic, learn ways to use insulin more effectively and discover when other medications should be prescribed. They also get a better understanding of when patients should undergo diagnostic tests or lab work and when a patient should see a specialist for additional care. Each case challenges the learner to help the patient achieve their individualized care goals within six ‘virtual’ months in order to pass.
“While developing SiMCare Diabetes, we evaluated real life situations and asked, ‘What are the major things doctors aren’t doing that they should be?’” said lead product developer JoAnn Sperl-Hillen, MD, an internist and senior investigator with HealthPartners Institute for Education and Research. “The 18 patient cases we ended up with are packed with as many learning practices as possible to address the gaps we identified.”
In addition to improved health, patients with well-managed diabetes have lower health care costs compared to those who don’t. A recent analysis by the IMS Institute for Healthcare Informatics found that patients with diabetes under 65 and covered by private health insurance had health care expenses of about $12,000 per year. Patients who did not have their diabetes under control could experience costs of more than $100,000 and were at greater risk of heart attack, stroke, loss of vision or limb amputation.