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‘The Little Hospital That Could’: Confronting Diabetes in the Delta and Beyond

The percentage of people in Mississippi aged 18 or greater who report they have been told they have diabetes is 11.3 percent, according to the CDC’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) survey in 2010.

In the Mississippi Delta, the problem is expounded by issues such as obesity, inactivity, familial history and poverty. In Sunflower County, 13.8 percent of the population has been diagnosed with diabetes, with an estimated one-third of the population currently unaware they may have the disease.

More than 32 percent of Mississippi adults are obese – gaining it the notoriety of being the “fattest state” in the nation. Obesity is one of the single largest contributors to diabetes, so it is no wonder why the state leads the country in this statistic.

As the Executive Director at North Sunflower Medical Center, these statistics trouble me. But there is hope.

Forging a first-of-its-kind public-private partnership, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant has joined with us at the North Sunflower Medical Center, along with the University of Mississippi Medical Center (UMMC), GE Healthcare, Intel-GE Care Innovations, and C-Spire Wireless to offer people with diabetes more consistent and timely access to clinicians through the use of telehealth technology in their homes.


The Diabetes Tele-health Network will begin recruiting patients in the Spring of 2014 in the Mississippi Delta to participate in an 18-month remote care management program – a concept that fuses technology with UMMC specialist care to improve patient outcomes and reduce total cost of care in a historically underserved area of the state. By using specialized tablet computers and cutting edge telehealth, the program is able to bring the resources and expertise of the state’s only academic medical center, UMMC, to citizens of rural Mississippi, rather than requiring them to travel to UMMC.

The project will recruit 200 patients in Sunflower County, MS, who will use Care Innovations technology to share daily health data, such as weight, blood pressure, and glucose levels with clinicians. The patient-provided information gives clinicians a much more complete view of a patient’s life. With this information, clinicians can easily adjust medical care, as well as schedule phone calls or video chats with patients as necessary. This type of “just-in-time” education can help avoid serious health complications as well as develop long-lasting behavioral change. Clinicians also can see a snapshot of all patients under their care to help them better understand which patients need immediate support.

North Sunflower Medical Center has become known throughout the Mid-South as “The Little Hospital That Could.” As North Sunflower Medical Center continues to partner with other facilities like UMMC to provide cutting-edge technology with real-time tele-emergency medicine, patients at North Sunflower Medical Center have immediate access to specialists in Jackson, MS without ever leaving home.

Those interested in participating in the Diabetes Telehealth Pilot should contact North Sunflower Medical Center’s One Call Referral Line: (662) 756-4000.

Billy Marlow is the Executive Director of North Sunflower Medical Center.

‘The Little Hospital That Could’: Confronting Diabetes in the Delta and Beyond was originally published on Ideas Lab

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