Colstrip Medical Center partners with Billings Clinic on Diabetes Study

Colstrip, MT – The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disease (NIDDK), a division of the National Institutes of Health, has awarded Deaconess Billings Clinic’s Center on Aging a $2.4 million competitive grant. This grant will fund a new four-year project designed to improve the management of diabetes, especially in rural areas. This chronic disease is now the 7th leading cause of death among all Montanans and the 4th leading killer of Native Americans. Diabetes is the fastest growing disease in Montana, up 26% since 1994. Because complications of diabetes severely impact quality of life, this grant will help find better ways to manage this disease.

Billings Clinic’s Center on Aging has focused on managing diabetes care since 1999 and has been recognized nationally for its research. In a collaborative project initiated in 2000 with Daniels Memorial Hospital and Clinic in Scobey, Miles City Health Care Clinic, and Red Lodge Clinic, the Center on Aging identified numerous barriers to optimal diabetes care. These barriers were found in both urban and rural settings and included lack of primary care providers, lack of diabetes education and lack of care coordination. The NIDDK-funded project will study whether using a Nurse-Practitioner led interdisciplinary team to intensively assist patients with diabetes management will improve health outcomes.

The Center on Aging will expand its partners for the new NIDDK-funded project to include Colstrip Medical Center. In the initial year of the project Colstrip Medical Center and Billings Clinic will develop more efficient methods of treating patients with diabetes including the use of telemedicine. Educational materials and clinical information support will be designed and used with rural diabetes patients and care providers. In years two and three, Colstrip Medical Center will implement an interdisciplinary team approach which will include: a Physician Assistant, Registered Nurse, Certified Diabetic Educator, Registered Dietitian and social worker to address the clinical, dietary, exercise and social issues as they relate to diabetes. In the project’s final year, improved management of diabetes will be documented and the effectiveness of the project will be analyzed. It is anticipated this program will serve as a national model for best practices in the management of diabetes in rural and urban settings.

United States Senator Conrad Burns was instrumental in creating the Center on Aging to help Montanans address the many challenges of managing chronic disease in a vast rural setting. Senator Burns has secured multiple federal appropriations to fund the Center’s successful research initiatives. Work at the Center on Aging has improved access to health care for patients in Montana communities through clinical outcomes research and education. “Information is key to prevention,” states Patricia Coon, MD, Geriatrician and medical director of the Center on Aging. “By increasing diabetes education opportunities through partnerships in communities like Colstrip, Red Lodge, Scobey and Miles City, we expect to see savings in health care costs and improvements in the overall health of people with diabetes.”

This is the single largest competitive grant received to date by Billings Clinic in its efforts to advance the availability of outstanding health care, education, and research in the northern Rockies.