New Diabetes Management Initiative Uses Telemedicine

It’s hard to overestimate the burden that diabetes puts on the American health care system. According to the most recent available data from the American Diabetes Association, annual spending on patients with the disease (and its numerous co-morbid conditions) reaches approximately $245 billion, including a staggering $176 billion in medical costs. Further, it’s been estimated that more than 29 million Americans have diabetes, and it is currently the seventh-leading cause of death in the United States. For patients with diabetes, managing the condition is often a cumbersome process involving multiple providers—but a new telemedicine initiative is aiming to make care coordination easier for practitioners and patients alike. As mHealth Intelligence first reported, faculty members at Stanford University and the University of Florida will be utilizing telemedicine to better connect primary care providers treating diabetes patients with specialty providers who can offer them guidance. “It’s an opportunity to provide better care for patients living with a chronic disease that requires 24/7 management,” said Dr. Michael Haller, the chief of pediatric endocrinology at the UF College of Medicine. “Type 1 diabetes is tough even for the patients who have great access to great care.”

The 18-month pilot initiative will be funded by a $1.6 million grant from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, which has stepped up its investment in diabetes-related programs of recent, with a particular focus on underserved communities. “Our hope is to reach adult and pediatric type 1 diabetes patients who may not see an endocrinologist for routine care but who could really benefit from the expertise of those specialists,” Dr. Ashby Walker, who will be managing the project at UF along with Dr. Haller, said in a Helmsley Trust press release. Added Dr. Haller, “Many people are living with very bare bones support for their diabetes management. We want to see if we can empower primary care doctors to provide more meaningful diabetes care for their patients.”

Stanford and UF’s joint project will use the telemedicine platform designed by Project ECHO (Extension for Community Healthcare Outcomes). Project ECHO, which began at the University of New Mexico (and will be involved in the diabetes initiative), is dedicated to increasing access to specialty medical care in underserved communities by giving primary care providers the tools and skills they need to provide specialty services to their patients. As the Helmsley Trust press release notes, Project ECHO “has been adapted for a range of diseases, including endocrinology, HIV, hepatitis C and chronic pain.”

Click here to read the mHealth Intelligence article on the telemedicine diabetes management program.

Click here to read the Helmsley Trust press release on the telemedicine diabetes management program.

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