Doctoral graduate investigates technology conduit between providers and diabetes patients

Deborah Greenwood, Ph.D., R.N., M.Ed.
Deborah Greenwood

Deborah Greenwood focuses her nursing career on diabetes, a disease that affects nearly 30 million Americans and remains the seventh leading cause of death in the country.  A recent graduate of the Doctor of Philosophy in Nursing Science and Health-Care Leadership Graduate Degree Program at the Betty Irene Moore School of Nursing at UC Davis and diabetes clinical nurse specialist with Sutter Medical Foundation, Greenwood researched how to improve how people with diabetes manage their care by leveraging the power of technology. Her findings could lead to altering the ways people are cared for and how they care for themselves.

“Typically a person with type 2 diabetes sees his or her health-care provider once every three months for only a few minutes,” Greenwood said.  “So I thought with telehealth remote monitoring, we would have access to more data to make timely and better treatment decisions. We can empower patients to learn from their data and help them make behavior changes to improve their condition.”

Telehealth uses telecommunications tools to create a complete feedback loop between providers and individuals to collect health information and share that knowledge with a team. Health-care decisions are made against that evidence and treatment changes made in partnership with the person receiving care. A study by DOMO, a data software company, concluded that each day smartphone users send 16 billion texts, 141 million tweets and update their Facebook status one billion times. Because data never sleeps, Greenwood focused on reinforcing the critical communications link between people and providers with electronic health records, remote monitoring devices and other emerging technologies.

Greenwood, who works as a program coordinator for Sutter Health Integrated Diabetes Education Network, taught her research participants how to analyze their glucose data the way she does as a diabetes educator, looking for patterns and trends and to recognize when their glucose levels are outside of goal range both before and after meals. She found a majority was receptive to that education and how they might alter their behavior to better manage their condition. Understanding glucose patterns also helped diabetics recognize when they needed a change in medication. Greenwood hopes her research will demonstrate effective uses of telehealth in the management of chronic conditions.

“We need to educate health-care providers and people affected by diseases about gathering actionable data, and how to use that information effectively,” Greenwood said. “Once this information is analyzed against evidence-based guidelines, treatments can be modified. Technology is a great conduit for patients and providers to collaborate in diabetes management.”

Greenwood currently serves as president-elect of the American Association of Diabetes Educators and will preside over the association’s 2015 annual meeting. She attributes her enhanced leadership skills to her experience at the School of Nursing.

“While doing my research, I facilitated partnerships across six different entities throughout the process, so I was required to use my leadership skills to effectively coordinate the various facets of my research.” Greenwood said. “The leadership components of the program evolved my skills to a new level and continue to serve me well.”