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Actively engaged: Diabetes pilot seeks to help patients manage care

Friday July 18, 2014
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Reducing hospitalizations and helping patients to learn how to better manage their diabetes are principal reasons Humana Inc. chose to engage with 500 of its Humana Medicare Advantage members in Texas, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin in a six-month pilot project with Pharos Innovations’ Tel-Assurance product. Humana Regional Manager Kate Marcus, RN, MS, ARNP, said the pilot program results look favorable.

“What makes this program unique is that the onus is on the member to make a call daily, to truly be actively engaged in the process,” Marcus said.

Patients call in or log on to the Internet daily to report fasting blood glucose results and answer general health questions.

Other interactive voice response programs are initiated by the care provider or manager.

Marcus said four Pharos-contracted nurses assess each patient’s input and provide feedback for unusual findings, such as a blood glucose level above 300. The nurses also offer patients needed education based on findings, such as how diet affects a member’s blood glucose level.

Meanwhile, Humana’s regular care managers monitor the program and continue working with patients, helping them overcome barriers to obtaining medication, diabetic supplies or keeping medical appointments.

Marcus said contracting with Pharos for the four nurses who assess patients’ input and provide feedback was a cost-effective choice for the pilot project.

Pharos Innovations CEO Randy Williams, MD, said about 30 companies use Tel-Assurance to monitor patients at high risk of hospital admission or re-admission for conditions such as heart disease, asthma, depression and chronic pain.

Launched in December 2013, the pilot is expected to conclude at the end of July. Marcus said 450 of the 500 members still were participating toward its conclusion.

“That’s very good engagement,” she said, noting that full outcomes data has not yet been examined.

But results are very promising, Marcus said, specifically referring to the number of members who continued to participate throughout the study. She said members have been highly satisfied with the project.

One 84-year-old member, for example, has avoided starting insulin injections by maintaining better blood glucose control and choosing better snacks as a result of the daily participation.

“What’s important [for getting best results] is that you do a good job at evaluating members to participate,” Marcus said, “to have those sign up who are motivated and good candidates — the members who are at the time in their lives that they are willing to participate, and it will benefit them.”

To see what else is trending, visit www.Nurse.com/Diabetes.


Karen Schmidt, RN, is a freelance writer. To comment, email specialty@nurse.com.