High-tech Diabetes program saving lives

March 27, 2009 3:55:55 PM PDT
The technology is called remote monitoring. It is helping diabetes patients control their blood sugar, which must be done through a combination of diet, physical activity and medications. Diabetes can have devastating effects, from stroke to blindness to amputation, and one in eight New Yorkers has it.

Herbert Dominguez has been waging a battle against diabetes for more than twenty years. The Vietnam veteran won a purple heart in that war and now he is well-armed to battle for his health.

He knew little about the illness, but he recalled being relieved when diagnosed. It was during the-then new AIDS crisis. Then he learned that diabetes is the number one killer.

But now Dominguez is stepping up to the challenge by keeping his blood sugar under control. He checks his blood readings daily and sends the information directly to Susan Lehrer, a registered nurse and the director of the health and hospitals house calls Telehealth program. She is Herbert's nurse counselor.

A high or low reading from a patient will sound an alert on Susan's computer and on her BlackBerry. She responds immediately.

"We call them on the phone and we are able to walk thru whether they're feeling any signs or symptoms of distress and it's a teaching opportunity," said Lehrer.

If a reading is high, she reviews diet and behavior. It happens repeatedly. She said, "Despite the fact they have been diabetic many years, the information is now delivered to them a the moment they're having difficulty, so the teaching is that much more powerful."

"Once we get the patients involved in their own care," says Dr. Pranav Mehta, director of Ambulatory care at Metropolitan Hospital, "I think we have a lot of success in getting them under control."

It's working for Herbert, who follows through with all of his learning, including physical activity. He calls it a godsend.

Susan Lehrers says she was called back after a patient with high sugar readings who was unaware she was in the midst of having a stroke.

The program is sponsored by Health and Hospitals, Metropolitan Hospital and Metro Plus, the insurance program used for city Medicaid patients.

According to city statistics, one in eight New York city residents has been diagnosed with diabetes. More than 46,000 of them are enrolled in city clinics or hospitals. Interested viewers may call Metro Plus customer service at 1-800-303-9626 or ask their doctor to refer them to: telehealthreferrals@nychhc.org.

A study conducted by the city in November, 2008 says some 500,000 New York City adults have been diagnosed with diabetes; 200,000 more have the condition but don't know it. Also, the new study suggests that 1.4 million non-diabetic New Yorkers have high enough blood sugar levels to place them at high risk of developing diabetes.

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WEB PRODUCED BY: Lila Corn


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