Dakota County has been recognized for its innovative approach to treating tuberculosis.
The County's Public Health Department recently received the 2019 Local Government Innovation Award from the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The award recognizes a new program called Video Directly Observed Therapy, which allows nurses and community health workers to remotely help TB patients treat the bacterial disease. The program is the first of its kind in Minnesota.
TB can be treated if patients take medications for six to 12 months. Without treatment completion, TB can spread and drug-resistant strains can emerge. The standard of care is daily administration of medication by nurses called directly observed therapy. Using telemedicine for TB patient treatment allows nurses to complete the process through video check-ins, instead of traveling daily to meet patients.
Dakota County has found cost savings and high patient and provider satisfaction with video-assisted therapy. A three-month pilot period saw $1,750 in savings based on the first five clients to utilize video check-ins. A one-year cost analysis is also planned.
Dakota County has seen other benefits to the innovative program. Clients surveyed at the end of treatment rated the program highly. One TB patient said: "I could do it anytime in a day. That made it easier for me to manage my schedule."
Video-assisted therapy allows clients to choose when to take medications, including in the early morning or evening. Nurses and health workers have had a positive response to the program because their schedule is more flexible and they can manage an increased caseload.
Dakota County averages 10 active TB cases per year. The disease is still common in other countries around the world.