SUNFLOWER COUNTY, MISS– The drive to bring proper healthcare to the more rural areas of Mississippi has shown that telehealth is the solution to one of the state’s most widespread health issues.
Telehealth has been defined as a way to communicate with a physician and manage health issues via technological means such as telecommuting or going to a telemedicine clinic, where the doctor visit is conducted via webcam and devices that measure stats.
Cspire and the University of Mississippi Medical Center teamed up to launch a pilot study of the benefits of telehealth when managing diabetes. 100 high-risk diabetes patients were selected for the study in Ruleville, which is located in rural Sunflower County.
The results were astounding.
“None of these people received emergency services during this time,” said Dave Miller with Cspire. “And these are people that if you look back, they weren’t managing their diabetes and were relying on emergency services.”
Cspire provided the technology for the homes of the patients so that it was possible for them to consult with medical providers linked with UMMC– nearly two hours away.
“The results were so positive, in fact,” said Laura Miller of Cspire (no relation to Dave Miller). “We’ve actually moved forward with implementing a program with UMC, and they have aspirations to take it across the nation.”
In 2010, 284,269 Mississippians were living with diabetes. According to a study entitled The State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America, Mississippi could have 415, 353 people living with the disease by the year 2030.
While the pilot program had technology established by Cspire, many parts of rural Mississippi do not have access to high speed internet. While establishing access to efficient internet accessibility is a priority in developing telemedicine in the state, it is not the largest problem.
“Our biggest challenge so far, has been education and buy-in of patients and providers,” said Laura Miller. “If everyone sees what we’ve seen, it’ll open their eyes.”
While the long-term impact of telehealth in Mississippi is still being explored, Dave Miller said the conversation surrounding the Magnolia state will change as the state continues to lead in telehealth development.
“We can change the national conversation,” said Dave Miller. “In this case Mississippi has an opportunity to put the focus on telehealth. With the success we’ve had in Mississippi… we are serving to be a national model in this teleheath and telemedicine movement.”