Patients in Mississippi will get a little extra help managing their diabetes through the Diabetes Telehealth Network, which will launch this spring. With the second-highest rate of diabetes in the country, some Mississippi patients in underserved areas will receive tablets to help them track and share health data like weight, blood pressure, and glucose levels in an effort to foster communication with providers, increase adherence, and reduce the burden of chronic disease care.
“This revolutionary telehealth effort will deliver top-notch medical care to patients in one of Mississippi’s most medically underserved areas, providing a new lifeline for health and disease management,” said state Governor Phil Bryant, who introduced the 18-month project as part of his State of the State address last week. “Innovations like this also spur further growth and economic benefit in the medical industry.”
“We know that diabetes is one of the foremost chronic diseases in Mississippi,” added Dr. Kristi Henderson, director of telehealth at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, one of the partners in the initiative. “This program can help improve care coordination and strengthen connections between clinicians and patients, and will serve as a proof of concept as we look to expand this model geographically and to other diseases. Sunflower County has been a pioneer with us for telehealth and often is one of our primary sites in starting up new specialties.”
In addition to increasing information exchange, providers will be able to make adjustments to medications and conduct phone calls and video chats to help address issues proactively and keep patients on track with their self-management.
Diabetes is often targeted as part of mHealth and telehealth pilots, since risk factors such as obesity and poor diet are shared with other costly and damaging conditions like hypertension and heart failure. Telehealth presents an opportunity for providers to manage patients unobtrusively while allowing them to collect data that may have impacts for wider population health management initiatives and strategies for care coordination.
“We will bring UMMC’s specialists, including the pharmacist, the diabetic educator, the nurse, the endocrinologist and the ophthalmologist, to the Mississippi Delta through this technology,” Henderson said. “We will be able to provide interactive video consults, deliver patient education and engage with the patient daily to meet their needs. Until now, this type of coordinated care that engages the patient in their home setting was simply not an option.”