The majority of children living with Type 1 diabetes in the United States are not meeting their hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) goals, a measure of how much sugar is in the blood, and a leading indicator of both short- and long-term disease state complications. Current research indicates that this trend is particularly prevalent in underserved communities lacking access to appropriate health resources.
Now, pediatric endocrinologists at UBMD Pediatrics and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo have launched a collaboration to provide remote care management and physiological monitoring for children living with Type 1 diabetes. The team will be evaluating the financial viability of providing these services as well as their impact on diabetes-related outcomes.
A $1.43 million grant awarded to UBMD Pediatrics from The Leona M.
and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is making this program possible.
Despite recognition of the benefits of remote care programs that deliver support in-between physician visits, most primary care and specialty providers lack the financial resources to deploy them effectively.
Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated outcome gaps among underserved communities primarily due to limited access to remote care services and community-based resources.
By working with Cecelia Health, a “virtual-first health care provider,” UBMD Pediatrics will be supplementing the in-person patient care it provides with care from an experienced remote diabetes and chronic care management team. Cecelia Health provides patients with a spectrum of support in managing their diabetes to ease the daily burden, help improve health outcomes, and free up care resources for providers.
A key goal of the program is to explore how improving access to remote support and the internet to better manage chronic conditions will improve outcomes. In particular, the program will examine whether access to fully supported cellular-enabled tablets and remote support enables patients to take full advantage of their existing diabetes technologies, such as continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps. In return, this should improve HbA1c levels and reduce hospital admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition which develops when the body doesn’t have enough insulin to allow blood sugar into cells for use as energy.
“Using telehealth to improve care of youth with Type 1 diabetes is at the forefront of clinical care,” said physician Lucy Mastrandrea, associate professor and chief of the division of pediatric endocrinology/diabetes at the Jacobs School and UBMD Pediatrics. “We expect to show that utilizing certified diabetes care and education specialists to deliver virtual support and education to our patients and families is financially sustainable. We are also taking this further by studying the clinical outcomes of patients with limited internet access who are provided tablets with cellular service and full technical support.”
“Our division of pediatric endocrinology/diabetes cares for about 1,000 patients with diabetes,” said physician Kathleen Bethin, principal investigator of the study and clinical professor of pediatrics at the Jacobs School. “We have many years of experience with both basic and clinical research to improve the lives of our patients.”