JACKSON, Miss. – Based on the success of its Diabetes Telehealth Network, the University of Mississippi Medical Center is expanding its remote patient monitoring program to patients with COPD, hypertension, kidney disease and other chronic diseases.
“The concept just makes sense,” said Michael Adcock, administrator of the Center for Telehealth at UMMC. “If we educate our patients on a daily basis and empower them with the right tools, over time they can learn about their disease and how to manage it.”
UMMC created the Center for Telehealth in 2003 to fill a need for specialized care and other public health services in the state’s rural areas. The Diabetes Telehealth Network began in 2014 as a way for doctors and health practitioners to better treat patients remotely, in real time and at home, using online streaming video and other tools for two-way live communication. Participants borrowed a tablet at no cost and were trained on how to use it.
Data from the diabetes program showed 96% of patients took their medications as directed, and 83% of them kept their scheduled telehealth appointments. The data also showed that the patients’ average hemoglobin levels dropped, and many of them said they avoided sugary desserts because they knew their telehealth caregiver would pick up on it through their vital signs.
For the expanded program, Adcock said UMMC learned that they needed to tweak the technology they were using to account for low digital literacy in many of the patients participating.
“We now use an iPad Mini because the interface is so easy,” Adcock said. “Everything is Bluetooth-enabled so there’s nothing the patients have to plug in.
The expanded program will offer some of the same services offered to diabetes patients, including live video health sessions and coaching on diet, exercise and medication adherence. Patients will also take and record their own vital signs, and if they fail to check in each day or if their vital signs are not in a healthy range, a health practitioner will contact them.
Success of the expanded program will be measured in improved health outcomes and cost savings.
“This is a real path forward,” said Adcock. “The evidence-based education is out there, and we’re getting it to our patients in a place that’s comfortable for them in a way that’s meaningful. We want to make Mississippi healthier.”