Mississippi Providers, Tech Firms Launch Diabetes Telehealth Project

April 22, 2014 in News

Mississippi officials are working with private technology companies and health care providers on a telehealth project aimed at helping state residents control their diabetes, Stateline/USA Today reports.

Background

Nearly 9% of Mississippi residents were diagnosed with diabetes in 2012 — the second-highest rate in the U.S.

About 3% of the state’s economy — or $2.7 billion annually — is spent on diabetes-related costs.

In March, Gov. Phil Bryant (R) signed first-of-its-kind legislation that requires private insurance companies, Medicaid and state employee health plans to reimburse providers for services performed via telehealth at an equal rate as those who provide in-person care.

Details of Project

In January, Bryant teamed up with the University of Mississippi Medical Center and three private technology partners to launch the Diabetes Telehealth Network, which is aimed at helping low-income state residents better manage their diabetes through telehealth.

The project is estimated to cost about $1.6 million, including donations of staff time and medical technology, and will last 18 months.

The telehealth-based diabetes management services will be available at no cost to low-income, uninsured participants in the project.

In June, 200 low-income residents with diabetes will be given tablets with Internet access that contain Intel-GE Care Innovations and GE Healthcare software. The software will allow University of Mississippi and North Sunflower Medical Center providers to remotely monitor patients’:

  • Symptoms; and
  • Test results.

Meanwhile, C Spire — the third technology company associated with the initiative — will provide technical support for the wireless telecommunications services necessary to transmit the patient data.

Every patient will undergo a baseline exam and be provided with a treatment plan, which will call on them to:

  • Monitor their glucose levels two to four times each day with an at-home testing kit;
  • Check their weight each day; and
  • Check their blood pressure each day.

The results then will be sent to providers via Bluetooth technology.

Providers at the University of Mississippi and the Sunflower Medical Center will work together to provide a wide range of specialty care for the patients as necessary. Members of the provider teams also will check in with the patients via videoconferencing to ensure they are making lifestyle changes to improve their health.

In addition, health care workers will help uninsured patients sign up for health coverage.

Other States Take Notice

According to Stateline/USA Today, other states and medical groups already have expressed interest in the project.

Kristi Henderson, chief of telemedicine at the University of Mississippi Medical Center, said, “If we can do it in Mississippi, where chronic disease is at its worst, where poverty is at its worst, and where transportation and workforce issue[s] are at their worst, we can make it work anywhere” (Vestal, Stateline/USA Today, 4/18).

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