Telemedicine technology may offer an avenue to implement diabetes self-management education (DSME) for people with diabetes in underserved rural communities. The continuous quality improvement process was used to identify the problem, collect and analyze data, and develop and implement a DSME program via telemedicine (DSME-T) in an underserved rural community.
A pilot study was conducted in 2006, implementing a DSME-T utilizing facilities at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and a rural community hospital in Arkansas (Ozark Health, Inc). A total of 38 people were enrolled to receive DSME-T. Participant knowledge, self-efficacy, and self-care practices were assessed before participants began the education program and after they had completed it. Also, select clinical measures (glycosylated hemoglobin, lipid profile, and urine microalbumin) were collected.
A total of 66% of participants (n = 25) completed the DSME-T program. A significantly greater proportion of participants demonstrated improved knowledge (39% vs 83%; P = .012), endorsed greater self-efficacy (54% vs 86%; P = .016), and reported more frequent self-care practices to manage their diabetes at the conclusion of the study period.
The results of this pilot study suggest that DSME-T may offer opportunities for DSME among rural residents with diabetes. Plans are in place to explore the possibility of sustaining and expanding the program to other underserved rural communities.