Researcher awarded $3M to develop telehealth program for Hispanic patients with diabetes

MANHASSET, NY – Feinstein Institute for Medical Research  Professor Renée Pekmezaris, PhD, has been approved to receive a $3.03 million research award from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) to study home telemonitoring for patients in the Hispanic community living with type 2 diabetes. This is Dr. Pekmezaris’ third PCORI award to develop a telemedicine program for underserved populations.

In type 2 diabetes, the most common form of diabetes, the body becomes resistant to insulin and cannot process glucose properly. Thirty-three percent of all Hispanics living in the United States will develop type 2 diabetes in their lifetime. Half of them experience an illness burden and mortality rate that is 50 to 100 percent higher than non-Hispanic whites. Previous studies that examined diabetes telemedicine programs in low-income communities found the programs effective, but there is not currently a program tailored to Hispanic communities. With support from PCORI, Dr. Pekmezaris will build upon these current successful programs to create one specific to the needs of Hispanic communities.

“A diagnosis of type 2 diabetes can mean a major change in a patients’ lifestyle, with regular blood testing, changes in diet and exercise and even insulin shots. The addition of language barriers and cultural differences can make managing this disease overwhelming for patients,” said Dr. Pekmezaris. “Thanks to PCORI, I’m confident that we will be able to offer Hispanic patients a telehealth program that makes the diabetes diagnosis less cumbersome. By offering regular check-ins from a medical professional and identifying early warning signs of larger medical issues before the patient becomes sick, we hope to improve quality as well as length of life.”

The new study has two phases. In the first phase, the research team will be guided by a Diabetes Community Advisory Board comprised of patients, caregivers and patient advocates like the American Diabetes Association. Also serving on the board are clinicians from multiple disciplines, including insurance representatives, health policy and disparities experts to identify important needs of the Hispanic community in developing the program. In the second phase of the study, Dr. Pekmezaris and her team will conduct a randomized clinical trial to determine whether the health of Hispanic patients who receive this adapted telemonitoring intervention is improved compared to those who receive standard outpatient care.

“It’s important when developing a program like this to have access to perspectives from patients living with diabetes and community advocates, as well as the medical professionals managing their care. This will ensure that the program can be relevant to the communities it’s meant to serve,” said Dilcia Granville, PhD, chair of the study’s Community Advisory Board and FDA Public Affairs Specialist.

In the clinical trial portion of Dr. Pekmezaris’ study, health care providers will conduct regular online video visits with patients, which will enable patients to monitor and share their health data and symptoms with their clinicians using a tablet in the patients’ homes, so that health care providers can make adjustments to their treatment plans. Patients and caregivers will also provide input about their satisfaction with the program during the study.

“This project was selected for PCORI funding not only for its scientific merit and commitment to engaging patients and other stakeholders, but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and give people information to help them weigh the effectiveness of their care options,” said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH. “We look forward to following the study’s progress and working with the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research to share the results.”

Dr. Pekmezaris’ study was selected for PCORI funding through a highly competitive review process in which patients, clinicians and other stakeholders joined clinical scientists to evaluate the proposals. Applications were assessed for scientific merit, how well they will engage patients and other stakeholders and their methodological rigor among other criteria. The previous two telehealth studies led by Dr. Pekmezaris with PCORI support were for underserved patients with heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

“Understanding and identifying programs which aid in drug adherence and care for different patient populations and conditions are just as important as developing cures,” said Kevin J. Tracey, MD, president and CEO of the Feinstein Institute. “New Telehealth programs will play an increasingly important role in the management of diabetes and other chronic syndromes.”

PCORI’s Board has approved this award to the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research pending completion of a business and programmatic review by PCORI staff and issuance of a formal award contract.

About PCORI

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) is an independent nonprofit organization authorized by Congress in 2010. Its mission is to fund research that will provide patients, their caregivers and clinicians with the evidence-based information they need to make better-informed healthcare decisions. For more information about PCORI’s funding, visit www.pcori.org 

About the Feinstein Institute

The Feinstein Institute for Medical Research is the research arm of Northwell Health, the largest healthcare provider in New York. Home to 50 research laboratories and to clinical research throughout dozens of hospitals and outpatient facilities, the Feinstein Institute includes 4,000 researchers and staff who are making breakthroughs in molecular medicine, genetics, oncology, brain research, mental health, autoimmunity, and bioelectronic medicine – a new field of science that has the potential to revolutionize medicine. For more information about how we empower imagination and pioneer discovery, visit FeinsteinInstitute.org.

For media inquiries, please contact:

Heather E. Ball Mayer
516-465-7917
hball@northwell.edu