An innovative use of wireless technology will help underserved communities improve diabetes care and prevention in Tijuana. Using 3G mobile technologies, the Dulce Wireless Tijuana project helps patients in remote areas both monitor and treat their diabetic condition.
In less than four decades, diabetes has become the U.S.-Mexico border’s most prominent public health problem, affecting over 1.2 million inhabitants. A bi-national and multi-sector alliance thus chose to focus on diabetes care with 3G wireless applications and services. The resultant effort is a pilot project. Participants will determine if this approach might work as a regional model.
The Dulce Wireless Tijuana system, announced by Qualcomm Incorporated earlier this month, combines mobile applications, web applications, mobile phones, netbooks, laptops, diabetes educational content and health care worker and patient training. Service delivery is available to diabetes patients and their caregivers wirelessly through Qualcomm’s 3G technology network.
Dulce Wireless Tijuana patients now will have access to the system and technology, including primary care diabetes services and disease management programs. The project stands as an example of how wireless technology can improve patient care for marginalized communities — not just in Mexico, but throughout the world.
Delivery of health care through wireless technology assists providers and patients in a variety of ways. It allows promotores (health care workers) the real-time ability to locate and receive confidential access to patient information, to manage patient appointments and to review training curriculum. Patients benefit because they can review diabetes information —such as instructional videos— online, participate in interactive surveys that help their providers learn how they are managing their diabetes and receive notifications from an alert system.
“This project is a significant step forward in increasing patient access to proper diabetes care in Tijuana,” said Dr. Paul E. Jacobs, chairman and chief executive officer of Qualcomm.
“The use of mobile technology has the potential to improve health outcomes, bring down costs and provide more people with access to care.”
An equally significant aspect of the project is the cooperation it engendered among a variety of public, private and nonprofit organizations across two nations. The diverse groups collaborated to empower diabetic patients to take control of their health.
The project operates from IMSS Clinic #27, the largest IMSS (Social Security) clinic in Mexico. But the project’s impact could extend far beyond the bounds of the Mexican border. Should it prove successful, this approach to the public health problem of diabetes could “scientifically prove the positive impact of this innovative solution on the public health problem of diabetes in order to provide this alternative as an effective model of care for all of Mexico and the world,” according to Pablo Contreras Rodriguez, IMSS regional delegate for Baja California.
Bringing health care to marginalized areas entails specific challenges, according to Marcela Merino, director general of Fronteras Unidas PRO SALUD, a nonprofit organization serving Tijuana communities.
“One of the greatest issues that these communities face is that —because of distance, public transportation challenges and lack of time— it is extremely difficult to visit doctors and nurses. With this project, patients are now connected to their health care providers, including promotoras, wirelessly via their mobile devices, which will enable them to obtain care they could not receive in the past and help them to live healthier lives.”
The Scripps Whittier Diabetes Institute of San Diego provided background and expertise in training and developing peer educators to deliver a clear and understandable message for diabetes patients. They train peer educators south of the border helping Mexicans implement programs similar to Project Dulce activities in San Diego.
“Diabetes is exceedingly prevalent along the border region so it makes perfect sense for us, if we are going to treat the disease, to treat it in similar ways across both sides of the border,” explained Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, vice president of the SWDI.
The organizations collaborating with Wireless Reach to provide technical assistance, program management, evaluation, in kind and monetary support are:
• the International Community Foundation (ICF) and its sister organization, the Fundación Internacional de la Comunidad
• the Social Security Institute of Mexico (IMSS)
• the Medical School at the Autonomous University of Baja California (UABC)
• the Scripps Whittier Institute (SWDI)