Indian Health tackles diabetes through telemedicine services

A healthcare provider in Southern California is turning to telemedicine to help address rising rates of diabetes in American Indian tribes.

The provider, Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health, rolled out the project to help members of the nine tribes it serves in the Inland Empire, according to an article in California Healthline. Many of the patients live in rural counties and do not have easy access to specialists.

Indian Health is a tribally owned health system with seven health centers serving about 14,000 patients, the article says. The telehealth pilot focuses on diabetes because "Native Americans are the largest diabetic population in the world," Karen Davis, Riverside-San Bernardino County Indian Health's clinical services director, says in the article.

The services include a primary care doctor or nurse and the patient video conferencing with a specialist.

The trust that patients have built with Indian Health is an important part of the project, Davis adds. They know the health system and feel comfortable receiving care through it, rather than outside the system.

However, the project has seen a few barriers to its success, including cost, regulations and technology issues, the article says.

While these are common problems for many providers looking to adopt telemedicine services, support for telemedicine tools is growing. Providers such as Phoenix-based Banner Health and New York-based Mount Sinai Health System that use telemedicine in pilot programs have cut hospitalizations and hospital stays. 

To learn more:
- here's the article