Telehealth eases the way for new diabetes patients

Patient using telehealth station

Olga Veter-Eluska, a Vancouver resident, visits PMG-Mill Plain for a diabetes telehealth appointment. During video consults with certified diabetes educator Juleeanna Andreoni, of Providence St. Vincent, Olga gets help bringing diabetes back under control. Read more about Olga's story in a news article published in the Columbian.

Whether it's the old-fashioned dial tone or the newest virtual visit, the telephone is playing a key role in managing diabetes for Providence patients. Diabetes diagnosis is on a sharp upward trend nationally, with more than 28 million children and adults living with diabetes. But, here in Oregon, two Providence diabetes initiatives are transforming the patient experience with more effective and affordable care – all with a simple telephone.

Telephonic intervention for members

For more than six years, Providence Health Plan's diabetes management program has been focusing on telephonic interventions to improve members' diabetes outcomes.

"Our goal is to manage the whole person and improve the connection points between a member, their provider and the health plan," says Karen Miles, RN, Providence Health Plan case and disease program manager. "Our nurse care managers not only provide educational support, but work to develop relationships that empower members to reach their self-management goals."

And now, data shows their outreach is working. One standard is patient activation measures, which show a members’ ability to manage their own health. With a 16 percent increase in levels of patient activation measures across all disease management initiatives, more members are maintaining behaviors that demonstrate a higher level of engagement, translating to fewer complications. Emergency visits due to diabetic complications are on the decline and the percentage of diabetes members with well-managed LDL and HbA1c values continues to rise.

Telehealth virtual visits

Self-managing diabetes can be challenging and removing barriers to access care is at the heart of a new telehealth program for patients at Providence Medical Group-Mill Plan and Providence Medical Group-Bethany. The program delivers virtual education, counseling and screening without the need to travel to the nearest hospital-based education program.

"There's no reason why people should need to drive in to hospitals," says Kathy Schwab, manager of Providence's outpatient diabetes services in Oregon. "This is the future of where health care is going."

Via a secure video conference feed, the program connects patients to diabetes educators at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. The program is still in pilot phase, but with more than 150 visits, its early success means it will continue and expand to other clinics.

Feedback from patients has been overwhelmingly positive and ranks the program equal to or better than an in-person visit. The program has also identified several patients on the verge of severe complications, who were able to receive immediate care.