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Home / News & IndustryManaged Care Insight and Analysis
Updated: October 27, 2009
Delivering Quality Healthcare To The Doorstep Of Rural Americans

How do you bridge the gap between quality healthcare and the needs of millions of Americans who live in remote regions around the country?

Project HOPE, the international health education and humanitarian assistance organization, has teamed up with UnitedHealth Group to provide an answer. Through their efforts, a mobile clinic will begin rolling out to rural communities in New Mexico early next year, offering residents access to physicians and specialists by using high-definition videoconferencing to create an experience remarkably similar to an in-person visit with a doctor. An on-board nurse will also staff the clinic, helping to coordinate residents’ ongoing healthcare needs with community health centers. The ultimate goal is to ensure that every patient has a "medical home" to help them stay healthy.

One of the program’s biggest payoffs will be helping underserved communities across New Mexico get a better handle on identifying and preventing chronic diseases, particularly type 2 diabetes and pre-diabetes conditions. Indeed, Hispanics or Latinos – who make up 44 percent of the population of New Mexico – are significantly more predisposed to type 2 diabetes than Caucasians. According to a 2004-2006 study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 10.4 percent of Hispanics living in the U.S. have been diagnosed with diabetes, and nationwide another 57 million Americans of all ethnicities are considered pre-diabetic, with about a fourth of them unaware of their condition.

The mobile clinic represents one of the first implementations of UnitedHealth Group’s "Connected Care," a national telehealth network launched by the company in July. The Connected Care program in New Mexico is designed to screen for and treat not just diabetes, but other chronic conditions such as high blood pressure and heart disease, and to educate residents about how to manage their health more effectively.

Since 1958, Project HOPE has worked to deliver sustainable health solutions to underserved populations around the world. Partnering with UnitedHealth Group’s Connected Care is the organization’s first major long-term project designed to aid needy populations in the United States since the 1990s.

"This is the perfect partnership to allow HOPE to play a larger role in improving access to quality healthcare for all Americans, starting with the particular needs of rural New Mexicans," commented Dr. John P. Howe III, president and chief executive officer of Project HOPE.

Initially, the program will be available to New Mexico residents in the southwest (Hidalgo and Doña Ana counties), expanding over three years to the central Albuquerque region, as well as to the north and southeast.

Aware of the program’s potential to help underserved people in many other rural communities around the country, Project HOPE and UnitedHealth Group are determined to develop a sustainable model. More specifically, they are looking to build an infrastructure for primary care treatment and chronic disease management, while also ensuring the capacity of local community healthcare centers to care for residents.

UnitedHealth Group will provide program funding, technology and technical support to the partnership. Project HOPE, for its part, will apply its knowledge and experience implementing healthcare training programs that address chronic diseases such as cardiovascular, cancer and diabetes. Over the last 10 years, HOPE has trained more than 200,000 healthcare workers in China about diabetes prevention and treatment, and last year launched a diabetes education program targeting healthcare workers in India.

Address: Project HOPE, 255 Carter Hall Lane, Millwood, VA 22646; (800) 544-4673, www.projecthope.org.


  This article was taken from:
The Executive Report on Managed Care

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