A Baptist Health pilot program is assessing how mobile technology will improve diabetes patient management in Central Arkansas with help from a $427,000 grant in funds and technology from the Verizon Foundation.
The program was announced Tuesday at Baptist Health’s Hickingbotham Outpatient Center by Troy Wells, president and CEO of Baptist Health; Kristi Crum, Verizon Wireless region president; and Lt. Gov. Tim Griffin.
The year-long program will involve 250 medically underserved diabetes patients in Pulaski County. Those will be divided into two groups whose results will be compared. Half are being equipped with technology tools that will help them better self-manage their disease.
Those tools include monitoring devices such as glucometers that communicate wirelessly with Baptist Health staff, and smartphones that will allow Baptist Health staff to call and text the patients – for example, if tests reveal that their blood pressure is high, and they need to take their medicine. Tablets are being donated to nurses as part of the program.
The other half will receive standard testing supplies such as blood pressure monitors and exercise logs to help them self-manage their disease more traditionally.
Both groups will be served by a certified diabetes educator, dietitian and exercise specialist.
Teresa Conner, Baptist Health manager of community outreach, said the participants involved in the group receiving the technology have more serious health issues than the other group. All of the members of both groups are medically underserved, and many have low incomes. Members of the group receiving only standard supplies should do better than they normally would because barriers to health are being removed, such as access to glucose monitoring test strips, she said.
The program already has 152 enrollees roughly split between the two groups. Wells said one patient came to Baptist Health with a high blood glucose level of more than 400. After being provided the technology and a physician, his blood sugar has fallen to 115.
Wells said more than 375,000 Arkansans have diabetes, a higher rate than the national average, with many of them yet to be diagnosed. Diabetes results in more than 7,000 hospital admissions per year, he said.
“Part of our vision and our goal for Baptist Health is to improve the health of Arkansans, and this is an example of how we can do that, and we can’t do it by ourselves,” he said afterwards. “We’ve got to work with others to help make that kind of impact.”
Krum said afterwards that the grant is a way to use technology to “impact the lives and the outcomes of patients here.” She said remote monitoring can be used in a number of ways, such as providing health care to rural patients, and that Verizon is considering several other programs and initiatives.
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