Telemonitoring helps diabetics to manage their own care

Last summer, the Western New York Beacon Community began a telemonitoring project among high-risk diabetic patients to prevent emergency room visits and hospital readmissions. The community, which includes Buffalo and eight nearby counties, has one of the highest rates of diabetes in the country with approximately 150,000 diabetic patients. 

While other similar projects focused on recently discharged patients, this one focused on patients who had not recently been hospitalized.

It installed mobile devices with 110 patients to report vital signs including blood pressure, glucose readings, and weight to health care providers through the area information exchange, HEALTHeLINK. The effort helped engage patients in their own glucose management, which is seen as vital in managing their care.

Successes with the program, according to Dan Porreca, HEALTHeLINK executive director, writing on the Health IT Buzz blog, included:

  • One community health center asking to enroll more people in the program based on the success of its patients;
  • One participating practice hiring its own nutritionist to work with patients after realizing that many patients need to better understand how diet affects glucose levels;
  • Patients taking their monitors on vacation with them to avoid any lapses in monitoring.

To prevent physician overload, Porreca wrote, the Western New York Beacon turned to three home healthcare agencies to teach patients how to use the equipment and to monitor the daily readings. Nurses, he said, report critical health information to patients' primary care physician.

New York is just one of the Beacon Communities testing remote monitoring pilot programs as a means to improve healthcare delivery and population health while cutting costs.Porreca pointed out that a community in San Diego has improved patient engagement among recently discharged chronic heart failure patients with a history of noncompliance, high utilization rates or poor understanding of their disease.

Telehealth has created buzz outside of Beacon Communities, as well.

Using remote monitoring for chronic care patients, Chesapeake, Va.-based Sentara Healthcare recently achieved a 2 percent readmission rate for those patients, and a rate of less than 1 percent for patients with congestive heart failure. That compared with a 15 percent readmission rate for its overall population.

Home telehealth and extended care eVisit systems are among some of the more promising, available technologies for chronic care, according to a recent report from NEHI, a health policy research organization that focuses on enabling innovation in healthcare.

To learn more:
- read the Health IT Buzz article

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