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Jason Ng, MD, is an endocrinologist and Clinical Associate Professor of Medicine at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Endocrinology and Diabetes Center in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Dr. Ng also serves as Chairperson of the Diabetes Task Force and is the Clinical Unit Lead of the Diabetes Technology and Medical Home Unit at the Division of Endocrinology.
Interview with Jason Ng, MD
In this interview, Ng discusses his expertise in supporting people with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and working to improve patient care through the T1D Exchange Quality Improvement Collaborative (T1DX-QI).
The T1DX-QI was established in 2016 — with the support of The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust — in an effort to refine best practices and improve daily life for people with type 1 diabetes (T1D). Growth has been tremendous, with 54 endocrine clinics from across the U.S. participating in the Collaborative.
Fueled by top leaders in diabetes care, the T1DX-QI has become an engine of innovation and inspiration. By engaging with the shared, data-driven, and systematic methods of the T1DX-QI, clinics have seen unprecedented success in their approach to diabetes management.
With members working closely together to identify gaps in care, discover and refine best practices, and share research — the process has become knowledge-sharing at its very best. While collated data gives clinics a clear sense of “where they are,” it also demonstrates “where they can be” by applying shared, evidence-based methods for improving care.
What led you to endocrinology?
“I was profoundly impacted by my mentor, David Kelly, who was a Diabetes Research Specialist in Pittsburgh at the time, and he took me under his wing during my residency,“ explained Ng. “Endocrinology was just one of those things that happened — it sparked something inside of me.”
As Ng began caring for more people with diabetes, he found himself contemplating how science could be moved forward to make life with diabetes easier, an objective from which he hasn’t wavered.
“People with type 1 diabetes are making health decisions all of the time,” explained Ng, who has a deep sense of empathy and understanding for his patients. “It’s a very unique condition and the management decisions being made every day affect how people do.”
“I think the general public doesn’t quite understand the intensity of the effort that goes into it — and the more I got into diabetes care, it triggered a passion to help.”
Joining the T1DX-QI
UPMC’s adult endocrinology clinic joined T1DX-QI in late 2022, explained Ng, who serves as the Principal Investigator for the site.
“While we’re just getting started, our IT team is working diligently with the Collaborative on data mapping. We’re really excited to share our experiences and help to build out the T1DX-QI adult diabetes program — it’s really important work,” said Ng.
UPMC will join the research efforts underway at T1DX-QI while contributing a wealth of data from the adult diabetes space. “A particular area of interest for our research group at UPMC and for T1DX-QI is in transitions of care, or the vulnerable time period between pediatric and adult endocrine providers,” said Ng.
Ng is referring to that phase of life when people with T1D transition from their childhood endocrinology team to an adult team — when they’re often living away from home at college without the same resources and support. Ng’s clinic is working through the T1DX-QI to develop better protocols to ensure young adults with T1D have the support they need during this big life transition.
The transition of care and process improvement
Dr. Ng’s research work at UPMC has two main focus areas: transitions of care, as previously mentioned, and process improvements to streamline workflows and delivery of care.
“Transitions of care was a main focus about four years ago, and we’ve swung back around to that,” said Ng. “We’ve put in for an NIH grant, which we’re pretty confident we’ll get.”
“At UPMC, we have some pinch points in transitions of care that need resolution,” explained Ng. On the patient side, Ng would like to see a “warm handoff” as part of the aging-out process from pediatric to adult care.
“That way, when a patient comes over, we’re not starting from scratch. There’s a trusting relationship and it’s pretty smooth sailing,” said Ng.
Secondarily, Ng would like to better understand the challenges pediatric patients are having, so they can be addressed prior to transitioning.
“This is an equally important piece of transitions of care and is part of UPMC’s grant proposal,” explained Ng.
As a unit leader, it’s a priority for Ng to stay on the cutting edge of innovative technologies to help improve the lives of those living with diabetes. This particular push has led to examining system process improvements more deeply.
“In essence, we’re discovering how to get people what they need to manage diabetes most efficiently — and on time,” said Ng.
“There appears to be a lot of inefficiencies and inertia in the process from the time that an order gets placed until a person receives it. And when someone runs out of their diabetes supplies, that’s a big problem. So, we’re looking at system-based practices we may be missing and learning how to make improvements.”
“Our underlying theory is — if Amazon can get you something within 48 hours, why shouldn’t we be able to get a pump replacement or supplies to a patient within that time frame, too,” suggested Ng. “It turns out that it’s a lot harder than we actually anticipated,” Ng said with a chuckle, “But we’re working through it. Many things remain unautomated on the backend and the lag time can be incredible.”
At UPMC, the goal is to have a way for patients to request and track orders within their chart, with visible notifications such as: “your order is processing”, “your order has been approved”, and finally, “your order is packaged and will arrive at your residence in two or three days”.
“We have a unique system at UPMC with an arm that specializes in tech to improve efficiencies, including one that’s in commercial use right now. It’s attempting to match medical supply companies with provider offices to improve operational performance. We’ve signed a contract and we’re looking forward to doing a pilot in the near future.”
What’s your biggest clinician win?
“When a patient leaves an appointment, and they’re smiling, that’s a clinic win,” shared Ng. “That always brings me great joy.”
“Treating the whole person and not getting caught up looking at the numbers is important. When someone feels heard and understood as a person, it makes them feel better. It’s normal for people to go through rough patches, which is often reflected in their diabetes management. Nothing is going to be perfect — but it will get better, and we’ll keep checking in and offering support,” explained Ng with a wide, reassuring smile.
Outside of work
Dr. Ng and his wife are the proud parents of four boys under the age of 9. They enjoy spending time together as a family and participating in the kids’ activities. One of his favorite pastimes is playing basketball and soccer with the boys. For now, he’s outnumbered 3 to 1.
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