New program for diabetes patients puts text messaging to work
Chartered Health Plan, the oldest Medicaid managed care organization in the District of Columbia, is launching a new text messaging program for 50 of its members to help them better manage diabetes, which requires regular care to avoid costly complications.
[See also: Diabetes texting program gets a boost]
The program enables participants to receive brief tips about living with diabetes, as part of a case management program that also includes face-to-face support.
Research shows that people who actively participate in their care can more effectively manage chronic diseases such as diabetes. In many cases, however, particularly in the neighborhoods Chartered serves, people with diabetes find it difficult to understand and manage the disease, Chartered executives say.
"Mobile health is the wave of the future for improved management of chronic disease," said Richard Katz, MD, director of the division of cardiology at the George Washington University Hospital, which previously partnered with Chartered Health Plan on a similar program. "It can be extremely popular with diabetes patients and result in reduced emergency room visits and hospitalizations."
Diabetes affects D.C. residents at substantially higher rates than in other areas of the country. In 2010, 10.9 percent of D.C. adults received a diabetes diagnosis, compared with 8.7 percent nationwide, and death rates associated with the disease are also disproportionately higher. Poorly managed diabetes can lead to complications such as blindness and foot problems, often leading to costly emergency room visits that could be avoided.
"This program connects our diabetic members to the real-time support they need," said Karen Dale, an executive at Chartered Health Plan. "Through this and other innovations, we're opening doors to good health for those who need it most in our community."
Bridging the gap
For years, Chartered has sought to keep members with diabetes engaged in their care through regular telephone calls and mailings, as well as face-to-face interaction with members. By adding a text-messaging element, Chartered executives say, the plan is expanding the impact of this effort and enabling members to play a more active role in the management of their disease.
The program encourages members to avoid unnecessary emergency room visits and instead to schedule annual appointments with their primary care providers as well as get annual eye and foot exams. It also helps people take their diabetes medicines appropriately and make lifestyle changes to better support their health.