Telephone-based care for pediatric diabetes management is a cost-effective approach to reducing care disparities, according to research published online in Diabetes Care.

Brandi E. Franklin, Ph.D., from the University of Tennessee in Memphis, and colleagues retrospectively analyzed pager service use in a cohort of 979 established pediatric patients with diabetes following inception of Pedi-Flite support, a critical care transport team. Incidence and severity of recurrent diabetic ketoacidosis (DKA) and cost savings generated from reduced referrals to the emergency department and on-call endocrinologist were the outcomes of interest.

The researchers found that 30 percent of the patient population used pagers. Generally, pager users were younger but had more established diabetes than non-users. Pager users were 2.75 times more likely than non-users to visit the emergency department for DKA (P < 0.0001); however, their visits were significantly less likely to lead to inpatient admissions (odds ratio, 0.58). No further referral was needed in more than half of all calls to the pager. An estimated 439 emergency department visits and 115 admissions were avoided, at a potential cost-savings of more than $760,000.

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“These findings enrich an emerging evidence base for telephonic care management models supported by allied health personnel,” the authors write.

One author disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.