The centerpiece of the partnership is a population health-care model that leverages telehealth technology delivered over state-of-the-art fixed and mobile broadband connections, and is designed to improve the health of participants while also reducing the total cost of care.
In 2010, 12.1 percent of adults in the Mississippi Delta, which is among the more underserved and impoverished regions in the nation, reported being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. Of that group, 293 died from complications related to the disease. In 2012, diabetic medical expenses in Mississippi totaled $2.74 billion, according to the American Diabetes Association.
In an effort to positively impact the prevalence and burden of diabetes in Mississippi, Bryant partnered with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), North Sunflower Medical Center (NSMC), GE Healthcare, Intel-GE Care Innovations, and C Spire in January to provide people with diabetes more consistent and timely access to clinicians through the use of telehealth technology in their homes. The program, known as the Diabetes Telehealth Network, aims to enroll up to 200 patients. The individuals currently enrolled have demonstrated significant enthusiasm and are enjoying improved control of their diabetes.
“It is very encouraging to see positive results early in the program and hear the personal stories from patients and nurses who believe this program has the ability to create lasting change for individuals and the state of Mississippi,” Gov. Bryant said. “This innovative partnership has gained the attention of the Federal Communications Commission as we are connecting patients in the rural town of Ruleville to a care management program they otherwise would not have access to in their town. I thank our partners for working diligently to make the Diabetes Telehealth Network an early success.”
The Diabetes Telehealth Network began recruiting patients in August in the Mississippi Delta to participate in an 18-month remote care management program, a concept that fuses technology with UMMC specialists to improve patient outcomes in a historically underserved area of the state. The program – a first of its kind nationally – is intended to forge a stronger connection between people with diabetes and clinicians in a way that supports earlier clinical intervention, more effective use of health services, and creates positive health habits and behavior change.
Participants in the Diabetes Telehealth Network are given tablets powered by a Care Innovations telehealth solution that enables health-care providers to remotely manage patients with chronic conditions. With their tablets, patients share what’s going on with them physically, emotionally and psychologically through daily health sessions with their clinicians. In addition, the tablets automatically capture their health data, such as weight, blood pressure and glucose levels, and transmit that daily to clinicians.
This daily information provided by patients gives clinicians a much more complete view of a patient’s health status, permitting earlier, proactive care. Using this technology, clinicians can better engage and educate patients, easily adjust medical care plans, schedule phone calls or video chat with patients. C Spire provides the high-speed mobile broadband communications network needed to support the connection between patients and clinicians in even the most remote parts of Mississippi.
“Connecting people to the health and care services they need is the true promise of broadband,” said FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn. “I applaud the State of Mississippi and its private partners for making this project a priority. The Diabetes Telehealth Network is a terrific example of the value of the ubiquitous deployment of advanced technologies in rural and underserved areas.”
“Just 4 months into the program, we’re already hearing such great patient feedback about how the Diabetes Telehealth Network is empowering patients to take better control of their diabetes from their home, yet still have the guidance and oversight of clinicians,” said Dr. Kristi Henderson, UMMC’s chief telehealth and innovation officer. “This program is helping improve care coordination and strengthen connections between clinicians and patients beyond the walls of a hospital in a way that I think will reduce the use of higher acuity clinical settings, like the ER.”
“Our clinicians have expressed the ease of use with the technology to better manage patients and help coordinate the care they need,” said NSMC Executive Director Billy Marlow. “It’s rewarding to be a part of something that really makes a difference in peoples’ lives, and we are proud of what we have accomplished with the partners thus far.”
Annie Ford recently enrolled in the program. “In the beginning, I was afraid because I knew my diabetes wasn’t where it should be, but in these last few weeks, I’ve learned more about my diabetes than the past 15 years I’ve had it,” Ford said. “I’m enjoying it, and I love my tablet because it’s teaching me a lot. You can never learn too much about your diabetes.”
“One morning I got up and my blood sugar was too low – it was 67 – and the tablet not only warned me that it was low, but it also gave me guidance on what I should do to help bring it up in a healthy way,” said Jackie Collins, another patient in the program. “Before I would have drank a soda, but the tablet told me orange juice is the best thing. It’s been an awesome experience.”
The Diabetes Telehealth Network’s partners laud this experience as a health-care delivery method of the future, one that expands coverage and cuts costs.
“Care Innovations is honored to be selected as a partner in this groundbreaking program that truly is living out our philosophy of driving patient engagement by connecting the care continuum to the home,” said Sean Slovenski, CEO of Care Innovations. “It’s exciting to see such progress early on and the promise of improving Mississippi’s health status start to come to life.”
“Collaborating in this telehealth network allows us to help expand access to quality, affordable care for traditionally underserved patients with diabetes in the Mississippi Delta,” said Michael Becker, director of marketing at GE Healthcare. “We are proud to be part of such an innovative healthcare program and look forward to seeing more positive patient outcomes in the months to come.”
“We’re encouraged by the early reports of progress with this innovative pilot program, which promises to make a real difference in the lives of Mississippians who are dealing with the reality of this chronic disease every day,” said Hu Meena, president and CEO of C Spire. “Combining the power and ubiquity of our high-speed mobile broadband communications network with technology solutions from Care Innovations that link UMMC specialists and patients in rural areas in new ways will help us deliver more connected, collaborative and cost-effective care.”
ABOUT THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSISSIPPI MEDICAL CENTER
Located in Jackson, UMMC is Mississippi’s only academic medical center and encompasses six health science schools, including medicine, nursing, health related professions, dentistry, pharmacy and graduate studies. The Medical Center’s health-care enterprise includes the state’s only level one trauma center and its only children’s hospital. UMMC’s education, research and health-care missions share the objectives of improving the health of the state’s population and eliminating health disparities. For more information, visit http://www.umc.edu and umc.edu/news_and_publications.