LEWISTON — The Central Maine Medical Group has announced the launch of a prevention and screening campaign called “Saving Lives Through Evidence-Based Medicine.”

Designed to identify people at risk for several specific diseases, the new initiative demonstrated its potential during its pilot stage when several Central Maine Medical Group patients critically at risk for a major adverse health event were identified and successfully treated.

One common factor the individuals shared is that they had no apparent symptoms for the disease that threatened them. They were identified as at-risk by clinicians in the group who wanted to find better ways to identify patients who were either at-risk due to individual health history or individual patients who had not completed recommended health screening tests.

The initiative uses a software program that scans medical databases for the single purpose of identifying people who have clinical indications suggesting they may be vulnerable to certain diseases and even sudden death.

“Being screened for an aneurysm saved my life,” said Auburn resident Ron Towle. “I had no idea that I was at a high risk for a burst aorta. After I received the letter from Dr. Joseph, my primary physician, and talking with my family, I decided to contact the hospital. I was shocked when the vascular surgeon called me with the results right after my ultrasound test.
My surgery went well and I feel great.”

Central Maine Medical Group physicians and other clinicians are using “data mining” techniques that search medical databases using screening algorithms that consider various factors to identify patients who could benefit from diagnostic follow up.

Glenn Focht, M.D., president of the Central Maine Medical Group, said evidence-based guidelines established from national studies are being used to identify people at risk for colorectal, breast and some lung cancers. In addition to finding patients at risk for these cancers, the physicians also wanted to screen for patients at risk for sudden death due to abdominal aortic aneurysm – something physicians often refer to as “triple-A.” A person with an undetected triple-A carries a very high risk for sudden death.

When the data mining process identifies someone at risk for an undetected health problem, the patient’s health care provider is notified. The health care provider, in turn, follows ups with the patient, usually suggesting they seek diagnostic testing. Central Maine, working with its doctors and nurses, is redesigning the work to make it easier for patients and doctors to have the screening done consistently, reliably and safely.

Focht said, “By sharing this work with our doctors and facilitating these tests for our patients, we are redesigning care to remove all the reasons why the national and local rates for health screening are too low. We want the people of Central and Western Maine to have the lowest possible rates of death from preventable illnesses such as breast cancer, colorectal cancer and ruptured abdominal aortic aneurysm.”

Patients who undergo further testing and learn they have a problem can then begin to address it with the assistance of their care provider. Confidential patient information is protected throughout this process.

During its pilot phase, the evidence-based data-mining process is credited with detecting both pre-cancers and triple-As. Discovering and treating a triple-A, in particular, is very important, as up to 50 percent of those who suffer a burst abdominal aortic aneurysm die before they reach a hospital.

“We have tens of thousands of patients in our practices, so this kind of disease detection is only possible because our electronic medical record allows us to efficiently search thousands of records. We simply couldn’t do the same with paper charts,” Focht said. “The Saving Lives initiative is possible because the CMMG physicians and associate professional staff are linked by a common electronic medical record that aggregates all of the medical information in an electronic database.”

The Central Maine Medical Group is comprised of more than 325 physicians and associate professionals who provide care at some 70 practice settings located in 19 central, western and coastal Maine communities.

Information about the Central Maine Medical Group is available online at www.cmmgcare.org For more information, contact Chuck Gill at 795-2711.

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