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Professor of Population Health to Lead $1.35 Million Study on TeleHealth

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An associate professor of population health at the Hofstra North Shore-LIJ School of Medicine will lead a $1.35 million research project at the Feinstein Institute of Medical Research to evaluate the success of telehealth in managing the health of elderly African Americans who have suffered heart failure.

Renee Pekmazaris, PhD, who also teaches in Hofstra University’s Master of Public Health program, will study whether telehealth programs are effective self-management tools for patients with chronic disease. Telehealth is the practice of health care providers using video and other telecommunications technologies to remotely monitor patients in their homes.

In her study, health care providers will conduct weekly video visits with patients, while patients will monitor their own conditions daily. Input from patients and caregivers will be gathered at multiple points during the research so necessary adjustments in the intervention process can be made to ensure that patients are compliant and satisfied with the system. A community advisory board will have input with the research team throughout the study process. The community advisory board will include patients, caregivers, patient advocates, clinicians with different expertise (a geriatrician, heart failure specialist and community-based telehealth nurse), an insurance representative, a health policy expert and a health disparities expert.

“Not every patient is the same. Some older patients are well-insured and have caregivers to help them, while others are very isolated and struggle with their disease on a daily basis,” said Dr. Pekmezaris. “The only way to design technology solutions that work with older patients, especially those who may have traditionally experienced poor access to care, is to seek their input from the start”.

An estimated six million Americans have heart failure, which occurs when the heart muscle doesn’t pump blood as well as it should. Prevalence of heart failure is more than 25 percent greater among African Americans than whites.

Dr. Pekmezaris and her colleagues say they believe there is a possibility that the study will identify a cost-effective care approach for patients living with chronic disease. The goal, they say, is for patients to take a more active role in their care and ultimately experience improvements in health, satisfaction and quality of life.

The Feinstein Institute will receive $1,353,160 over three years from the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) for the study.

“This project was selected for funding not only for its scientific merit,” said PCORI Executive Director Joe Selby, MD, MPH, “but also for its potential to fill an important gap in our health knowledge and ultimately help patients and those who care for them make more fully informed decisions about their care.”

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