Mississippi looks to telemedicine to improve diabetes outcomes

Wed, 2014-04-23 06:00 -- Doug Cooley

Diabetes is a growing health issue across the United States. And Mississippi knows this better than anyone.

The Magnolia State ranks second behind West Virginia in percentage of residents affected by the chronic disease. In 2012, almost 9% of Mississippians had diabetes.  In addition, the state spends $2.7 billion annually on the problem.

The widespread affliction has prompted Mississippi to look to telemedicine to help diabetes patients better monitor the disease and avoid costly and unnecessary hospitalization, according to Stateline, the Pew Charitable Trust news service.

Stateline reports that Mississippi will launch the Diabetes Telehealth Network starting in June. The project will run 18 months and provide 200 diabetics from one of the state’s poorest regions with computer tablets. Software provided by Intel-GE Care Innovations and GE Healthcare will be installed on the tablets and enable medical professionals at the University of Mississippi and another regional hospital to remotely monitor patients’ test results and symptoms.

At the start of the $1.6 million project, each patient will be given a baseline exam and a treatment program that requires them to check glucose levels daily and transmit the results to the medical teams. Patients will also check their weight and blood pressure daily and transmit the information.

The project looks to demonstrate that even patients with the least-controlled diseases can see improved health outcomes with careful monitoring. It may also open the door to remotely help people manage other chronic diseases such as asthma and congestive heart failure.

One of the breakthrough elements of the Mississippi project is that it was launched in conjunction with a new state law requiring all insurers to cover telemedicine services. Other states have required private insurers to pay for some telemedicine services, but not all. An American Telemedicine Association spokesperson contends the Mississippi law goes further than any other state to remove what the telehealth industry considers its biggest impediment -- lack of insurance reimbursement.

Telemedicine services are viewed as an important smart cities development. Telemedicine promises to improve access to health care and patient satisfaction while making health services more cost effective. The Smart Cities Council Readiness Guide provides additional insights into telemedicine in the Health and Human Services section. Be sure to download your copy of the Guide (a free, one-time registration is required).