Objective: We examined whether low-income patients with diabetes were able and willing to use automated telephone disease management (ATDM) calls to provide health status information that could improve the quality of their care.
Research design and methods: A total of 252 adults with diabetes, 30 of whom spoke Spanish as their primary language, were enrolled at the time of clinic visits in a Department of Veterans Affairs health care system (n = 132) or a county health care system (n = 120). Patients received ATDM calls for 12 months and responded to queries using their touch-tone telephones. We examined 1) whether patients completed ATDM assessments consistently over the year and used the calls to report their self-monitored blood glucose (SMBG) levels, 2) the characteristics of patients most likely to use the system frequently, 3) whether patients responded consistently within ATDM assessments, and 4) whether ATDM assessments differentiated among groups of patients with different clinical profiles at baseline.
Results: Half of all patients completed at least 77% of their attempted assessments, and one-fourth completed at least 91%. Half of all patients reported SMBG levels during at least 86% of their assessments. Patients completed assessments and reported glucose levels consistently over the year. Health status indicators were the most important determinants of assessment completion rates, while socioeconomic factors were more strongly associated with patients' likelihood of reporting SMBG data during assessments. Patients' responses within assessments were consistent, and the information they provided during their initial assessments identified groups with poor glycemic control and other health problems.
Conclusions: Most low-income patients with diabetes can and will use ATDM calls as part of their care. The information they provide is reliable and has clinical significance. ATDM calls could improve the information base for diabetes management while relieving some of the pressures of delivering diabetes care under cost constraints.