Pequot Nation Exhibits Promising Diabetes Outcomes with Telehealth

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By Victoria Bailey

The Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation did shown significant positive results for A1c reduction, weight loss and reduced insulin consumption after one year of using a telehealth program that treats patients with type 2 diabetes.

Traditional diabetes treatments do not affect this population, which has the highest rates of type 2 diabetes in the country. According to the American Diabetes AssociationNearly 15 percent of Alaska’s Indians and Native Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes, compared with approximately 10.5 percent of the American population.

In addition, around 20 percent of the population have undiagnosed diabetes and many more are on the verge of developing chronic diseases.

Telehealth programs enable providers to improve access to care for underserved populations and improve care management plans to improve outcomes and reduce costs. They can also be a critical piece Diabetes prevention programswho help people at risk for type 2 diabetes through counseling and health and wellness education.

After a year of a virtual care program developed by Virta Health, members of the Connecticut-based Native American community living with type 2 diabetes reduced their insulin use by 78 percent. At the beginning of the partnership, a 1000 unit vial of insulin lasted nine days. After a year, the same vial lasted about 63 days.

In addition, 69 percent of these patients lost more than 5 percent of their body weight, which is considered clinically significant and a benchmark for DPP programs by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. And 93 percent reduced their A1c levels with an average decrease of 1.7 percent.

The telehealth platform not only improved the health of the Pequot nation, it also saved money. In the past two years, the community’s diabetes-specific drug costs have decreased by 72 percent. The platform also helped patients reduce their drug use for chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and cut all drug costs in half.

“By combining ancient wisdom with modern medicine, Virta has helped many of our members achieve health outcomes that we never thought possible,” said Dr. Setu Vora, Chief Medical Officer of the Pequot Tribal Nation, in a press release. “Diabetes has plagued tribal communities for decades. Now Virta offers a solution that can truly reverse this epidemic and reduce the massive cost burden of this disease. “

In contrast to current diabetes treatment with frequent drug use and infrequent doctor visits, telemedicine platforms such as Virta enable patients to connect to care providers at any time and anywhere via an mHealth app. These platforms also personalize treatment and allow providers to tailor care management based on patient trends and dietary preferences.

Telemedicine has proven itself in other aspects of diabetes care management. According to a Study by Kaiser PermanenteA telehealth platform helped diabetics treat their foot ulcers, a common condition among people with diabetes. This platform eliminated major amputations in patients and reduced hospital visits by 52 percent.