November 11, 2010

VU, state team to enhance diabetes communications

VU, state team to enhance diabetes communications

Vanderbilt University Medical Center is partnering with the Tennessee Department of Health on a $3.5 million project to improve care for diabetes patients through better communications.

The project, entitled PRIDE (Partnering to Improve Diabetes Education), focuses on training providers and is funded by the National Institutes of Health. Providers in 10 primary care, safety-net clinics in the mid-Cumberland region will be trained, and their patients will be followed over the next five years.

Russell Rothman, M.D., M.P.P.

Russell Rothman, M.D., M.P.P.

“We know from our research that patients with lower literacy and numeracy levels also have worse self-management and poorer blood sugar control,” said Russell Rothman, M.D., M.P.P., director of the Vanderbilt Program on Effective Health Communication.

Cathy Taylor, Dr.P.H., M.S.N.

Cathy Taylor, Dr.P.H., M.S.N.

“We also know we can improve health and self-management by changing the way health care providers communicate with patients.”

Rothman is principal investigator of the study, and is partnered with Cathy Taylor, Dr.P.H., M.S.N., assistant commissioner at the Department of Health.

Taylor said one of the best things about this project is its collaborative nature.

The state's clinic staff and the Vanderbilt team have been working together to design the training activities since before the grant was received.

“The result is a carefully planned initiative that will build a foundation for what I think will be a successful study. It will also serve as a springboard for additional partnership projects between academic institutions and the state,” Taylor said.

The staff at half of the clinics will receive standard diabetes care training, while the other half will receive enhanced training with a special focus on helping providers and patients overcome literacy and numeracy obstacles.

The enhanced training includes a toolkit and training at Vanderbilt's Center for Experiential Learning and Assessment with surrogate patients. The goal is to enroll 40 adult diabetes patients at each safety-net clinic to follow and ultimately compare outcomes.

The academic involvement in PRIDE includes investigators from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Vanderbilt University School of Nursing, Vanderbilt Arts and Sciences and Meharry Medical College.

Rothman said he hopes this model of diabetes care can be shared with other health departments across the state and the nation as public health providers increasingly work closely with academic institutions.

The Health Department agrees such collaborations are a benefit to the public, especially at a time when the economy is tight and funding for things like training is hard to come by.

“By helping patients make the right health behavior choices and improve their self-management, many negative outcomes can be prevented, or postponed for a very long time. Collaborations like this can help achieve that,” Taylor said.