Program funded by a $1.4 million grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust will focus on expanding access to virtual diabetes care
By UBMD Pediatrics
The majority of children living with Type 1 diabetes in the United States are not meeting their hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) goals, a measure of how much sugar is in the blood, and a leading indicator of both short- and long-term disease-state complications. Current research indicates that this trend is particularly prevalent in underserved communities lacking access to appropriate health resources.
Now, pediatric endocrinologists at UBMD Pediatrics and the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at the University at Buffalo have launched a collaboration to provide remote care management and physiological monitoring for children living with Type 1 diabetes. The team will be evaluating the financial viability of providing these services, as well as their impact on diabetes-related outcomes.
A $1.43 million grant awarded to UBMD Pediatrics from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust is making this program possible.
Despite recognition of the benefits of remote care programs that deliver support in between physician visits, most primary care and specialty providers lack the financial resources to deploy them effectively. Moreover, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated outcome gaps among underserved communities primarily due to limited access to remote care services and community-based resources.
By working with Cecelia Health, a “virtual-first health care provider,” UBMD Pediatrics will be supplementing the in-person patient care it provides with care from an experienced remote diabetes and chronic care management team. Cecelia Health provides patients with a spectrum of support in managing their diabetes to ease the daily burden, help improve health outcomes, and free up care resources for providers.
A key goal of the program is to explore how improving access to remote support and the internet to better manage chronic conditions will improve outcomes. In particular, the program will examine whether access to fully supported cellular-enabled tablets and remote support enables patients to take full advantage of their existing diabetes technologies, such as continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps. In return, this should improve HbA1c levels and reduce hospital admissions for diabetic ketoacidosis, a life-threatening condition which develops when the body doesn't have enough insulin to allow blood sugar into cells for use as energy.
“Using telehealth to improve care of youth with Type 1 diabetes is at the forefront of clinical care,” said Lucy Mastrandrea, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor and chief of the division of pediatric endocrinology/diabetes at the Jacobs School and UBMD Pediatrics. “We expect to show that utilizing certified diabetes care and education specialists to deliver virtual support and education to our patients and families is financially sustainable. We are also taking this further by studying the clinical outcomes of patients with limited internet access who are provided tablets with cellular service and full technical support.”
“Our division of pediatric endocrinology/diabetes cares for about 1,000 patients with diabetes,” said Kathleen Bethin, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of the study, and clinical professor of pediatrics at the Jacobs School. “We have many years of experience with both basic and clinical research to improve the lives of our patients.”
Cecelia Health has worked with several university and hospital diabetes specialty clinics during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“During the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and thanks to the support of the Helmsley Charitable Trust, we were fortunate to leverage the expertise of Cecelia Health and its team of certified diabetes care and education specialists to provide telehealth support services to our diabetes patients who were unable to be seen in-person on a regular interval,” said Bethin, also a member of UBMD Pediatrics’ division of endocrinology/diabetes.
Additionally, the researchers are interested to see how video care support along with improved ability to share data from pumps and blood glucose devices compares to phone-only support.
“We are thrilled to be collaborating with UBMD Pediatrics on this important initiative,” said Arnold Saperstein, M.D., FACP, chief medical officer at Cecelia Health. “It affords us the opportunity to highlight both the clinical and financial value of our remote care model for chronic conditions in partnership with established clinical practices.”
The grant will support this collaboration for three years.
“Dedication to discovery, patient care, and advancing science is what defines renowned academic medical centers like ours,” said Steven E. Lipshultz, M.D., A. Conger Goodyear Professor and chair of pediatrics in the Jacobs School. “UBMD Pediatrics is proud to join forces with the Helmsley Charitable Trust and Cecelia Health to transform the lives of the patients we serve by translating innovation in the lab to improve outcomes at the bedside and in the community, elevating care in an equitable and inclusive way for all patients.”
The Helmsley Charitable Trust, the funder of this project, is one of the largest private foundation funders of Type 1 diabetes in the nation.
“Telehealth has the unparalleled ability to meet patients where they are, but for these services to be used, they must be reimbursed properly,” said Sean Sullivan, Ph.D., program officer for the Helmsley Charitable Trust’s Type 1 diabetes program. “This innovative work aligns with our goal at Helmsley to better understand the impact and viability of programs that can expand access to quality care for all people with Type 1 diabetes, regardless of their ZIP code.”
To learn more about how to support children with Type 1 diabetes through medical discovery and advances at the Jacobs School, visit http://www.buffalo.edu/campaign.html or contact Senior Director of Advancement Kathy M. Swenson at [email protected] or 716-829-5052.
Cecelia Health is a virtual-first provider organization delivering integrated care to patients across all chronic disease risk profiles.
UBMD Pediatrics is one of 18 practice plans within UBMD Physicians’ Group, the single largest medical group in Western New York. Visit UBMDPediatrics.com.
The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust aspires to improve lives by supporting exceptional efforts in the U.S. and around the world in health and select place-based initiatives. Visit helmsleytrust.org.