Touting success, Mississippi telehealth effort expands beyond diabetes

Doctor with phone and tablet

The University of Mississippi Medical Center's pilot program to remotely monitor Delta diabetes patients has been so successful that it has expanded to cover patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, hypertension, kidney disease and a number of other conditions.

While UMMC has had a telehealth center since 2003 to provide specialized care, the Diabetes Telehealth Network kicked off in 20 Delta counties in 2014. It allowed real-time remote care of diabetes patients in their homes, reports The Clarion-Ledger.

The benefits from the first 100 patients were positive that leaders expanded the program to other chronic conditions before completing the pilot. 

The UMMC telehealth center provides service in 35 specialties at 218 locations, including local clinics and hospitals, as well as the care management for chronic conditions.

“A lot of our patients hadn't touched technology before the Diabetes Telehealth Network. Many didn't have internet,” Michael Adcock, administrator of the Center for Telehealth at UMMC told the Clarion-Ledger. “But once they found out how easy it was and how useful the information is, they embraced it.”

The network has modified its technology a bit. Originally, it issued tablet computers to patients to use at home. Now they’re given an iPad Mini that connects with Bluetooth. Patients check daily and submit their vital signs, blood pressure, blood sugar and temperature. If there’s a problem, a nurse contacts them.

Preliminary data from the pilot program shows 96 percent of the diabetes patients took their medications as directed and 83 percent kept their scheduled telehealth appointments. Their average hemoglobin A1c level dropped as well.

None of the diabetes patients was hospitalized or went to the emergency room with complications, and nine cases of diabetic retinopathy were found that might otherwise have gone undiagnosed. Officials also estimate the home care saved patients 9,000 miles in travel to see specialists.