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Dr. Kristi Henderson, Chief telehealth and innovation officer, UMMC

Telehealth network’s Southeastern expansion means more jobs, services

By BECKY GILLETTE

The University of Mississippi Medical Center’s Center for Telehealth and Intel-GE Care Innovations has had such success providing the Diabetes Health Telehealth Network that it is being expanded to serve those with other chronic diseases and those underserved across the Southeast.

“UMMC’s Center for Telehealth has a history of creating sustainable telehealth models by providing high quality health care,” said Michael Adcock, Center for Telehealth administrator, UMMC. “A partnership was needed with a vendor to assist with the remote patient monitoring model. After a formal request for proposals was done, Care Innovations was selected as the vendor to partner with UMMC for remote patient monitoring.”

This five-year agreement builds on the success of the Diabetes Telehealth Network, which has helped Mississippi patients take charge of their health to better control their diabetes and avoid hospitalizations.

Adcock said the remote patient monitoring program provides patients with a personalized kit including an electronic tablet with videoconferencing capabilities and the ability to receive data from peripheral devices, such as a glucometer, blood pressure cuff or scale.

“Daily assessments, vital signs and symptoms will be reported by the patient and monitored by UMMC’s Center for Telehealth staff,” Adcock said. “The solution will include content such as personalized interventions, targeted education, health coaching, behavior modification, medication adherence and content to motivate patients.”

A fan of the program is participant Annie Ford.

“In the beginning, I was afraid because I knew my diabetes wasn’t where it should be, but in these last few weeks, I’ve learned more about my diabetes than the past 15 years I’ve had it,” Ford said.  “I’m enjoying it, and I love my tablet because it’s teaching me a lot. You can never learn too much about your diabetes.”

Jackie Collins, another patient in the program, said an example of how it is helpful is she got up one morning and her blood sugar was too low – it was 67. The tablet not only warned her that it was low, but it also gave her guidance on what she should do to help bring it up in a healthy way.

“Before I would have drank a soda, but the tablet told me orange juice is the best thing,” Collins said. “It’s been an awesome experience.”

UMMC’s Center for Telehealth staff interacts with patients on a daily basis. Biometrics, including glucose, blood pressure and weight, are uploaded daily, and more often as needed.

Adcock said the biometrics are sent electronically to the Center for Telehealth staff to address changes in patient status quickly to prevent emergency room visits or hospitalizations.

Often patients have more than one illness. Adcock said the remote patient monitoring is designed to provide care to any and all patients diagnosed with a chronic disease. The chronic conditions include congestive heart failure, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, asthma, and hypertension.

The new contract will result in more health-care providers being hired at UMMC including RN care coordinators, dietitions, pharmacists and social workers. Over the next year, UMMC expects to expand its workforce working in the remote care management program from 50 to 170.

Kevin Cook, UMMC’s CEO of University Hospitals and Health System, said the Diabetes Health Network not only has helped people better manage their health, but also has resulted in big savings.

“By extending this program, we expect to save $189 million in Medicaid each year just with the diabetic population,” Cook said. “After seeing the success derived through our diabetes program with Care Innovations and the improvement in quality of life it provided for those enrolled, we are ready to extend the benefits to other chronically ill populations and healthcare organizations who share our vision of a healthcare system that extends into the home.”

A spokesman for Care Innovations said their patient management platform, Health Harmony, removes the complexity of remote care management by encouraging the patient to engage in their own health from home using consumer-friendly devices and peripherals, interactive education, and videoconferencing. Through the Health Harmony platform, vitals data are transmitted daily to clinicians, interactive health sessions generate qualitative data points typical of those collected during an in-office visit, and algorithms monitor changes in existing patterns and alert clinicians to potential issues to be addressed.

“Through our collaboration with UMMC, we have an unprecedented opportunity to address the serious health challenges Americans face today with a combination of technology, understanding of human behavior, and a different health care model,” said Sean Slovenski, CEO at Care Innovations. “Together, we’ve pioneered a proven set of best practices and unique workflows for this remote management program, giving UMMC the confidence to extend this transformative model of care to thousands of chronically ill patients while pushing healthcare into the future. UMMC has proven that remote care management should be a standard part of the health care system because it can improve health, keep people unnecessarily out of the hospital, and save millions of dollars.”

Dr. Kristi Henderson, chief telehealth and innovation officer at UMMC, said before they kicked off the diabetes program, they knew the results would be impactful for patients.

“But we just didn’t know it would be this impactful,” she said. “Care Innovations has been an invaluable ally. Their unmatched expertise contributed immensely in surpassing our initial measurements of success, proving that this model of care is feasible to implement and can generate savings quickly. Because we started with a patient population facing the most difficult challenges, we are extremely confident we will continue to be successful as we expand the program to other chronic conditions and in working with other healthcare organizations outside of Mississippi.”

Gov. Phil Bryant, who has visited the North Sunflower Medical Center to review the Diabetes Telehealth Program —the first program of its kind in the country — said it is very encouraging to see positive results early in the program and hear the personal stories from patients and nurses who believe this program has the ability to create lasting change for individuals and the state of Mississippi.

“This innovative partnership has gained the attention of the Federal Communications Commission as we are connecting patients in the rural town of Ruleville to a care management program they otherwise would not have access to in their town,” Bryant said. “I thank our partners for working diligently to make the Diabetes Telehealth Network an early success.”

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