DETROIT (WWJ) — The Southeast Michigan Beacon Community announced positive results of surveys taken by patients with type 2 diabetes who participated in SEMBC’s patient health navigator program.

The results of the surveys indicate that patients who received assistance from a PHN appear to do a better job managing medication adherence, are more willing to consider behavior changes, and are satisfied with their participation in the program.

The goal of the 90-day PHN program is to use navigators to help patients with diabetes address non-clinical aspects of their condition such as eating a healthy diet, getting regular exercise and getting to doctor appointments. Some examples of services provided by patient health navigators include assistance with obtaining prescriptions and medication adherence, checking blood sugar regularly, appointment reminders, menu planning, and setting goals such as weight loss and smoking cessation.

Enrollment in the program is triggered by a physician referral from any of the SEMBC’s 46 affiliated private practices or Federally Qualified Health Centers in Detroit, Highland Park, Hamtramck, Dearborn, or Dearborn Heights. Patient referrals are sourced through the use of Electronic Health Records, data pulls from physicians’ EHR systems, and EHR prompts and alerts at the point-of-care. Since it was launched in July of 2011, the SEMBC Patient Health Navigator program has received over 2,200 patient referrals from physicians, with over 1,100 patients who actively engaged with a PHN.

To track receptiveness to the program, participating patients were surveyed when they entered the program, at the conclusion of their participation and again 90 days after participating in the program. The results of the surveys are dramatic. Statistically significant improvements were cited in medication adherence, as well as patients’ readiness to change in the following areas: making healthy food choices, being physically active, checking blood sugar, managing stress, keeping appointments, smoking cessation, and identifying self-management goals. In addition, participants indicated a high level of satisfaction with the PHN program.

“Because of the complexity of type 2 diabetes, what we’re finding is that many of the patients we work with simply need a better understanding of their condition,” said Chris Distelrath, one of the patient health navigators at the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community. “And because of the one-to-one relationship we can take whatever time is necessary to explain their condition and give them suggestions, resources, and encouragement that will help them more closely follow their physician’s prescribed care regimen.”

“Our practice has found a great deal of value in the PHN program,” said Steven Hadesman, M.D. at Medical Pavilion II Internal Medicine in Detroit, “We see patient health navigators as an extension of our care team that can engage patients after they have left our office. PHNs are a great resource to assist patients with many of the fundamental issues that may be holding them back from becoming more proactive in their care.”

“It’s always great to get positive feedback from the patients we work with; it really validates the work of our affiliated providers and our PHNs,” said Terrisca Des Jardins, Director of the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health, an estimated 758,300 Michigan adults have been diagnosed with diabetes, and another 250,200 have undiagnosed diabetes. This means more than 1 million adults in Michigan — over 10 percent of the adult population — are directly affected by this ever-growing condition. This is particularly true in Wayne County, where estimates go as high as 16% of the adult population.

The Southeast Michigan Beacon Community is one of 17 Beacon Communities established by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and administered by the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. As part of a larger healthcare revolution, the Southeast Michigan Beacon Community is committed to building and strengthening local health IT infrastructure and testing innovative approaches to make measureable improvements in health, care and cost. For more information, visit


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