How can Telemedicine Improve the Quality of Treatment for People with Diabetes?

One of the reasons why people with diabetes have difficulty managing the disease is the failure to stick to treatment regimens as well as noncompliance with scheduled doctor visits – as reported by the LECOM School of Pharmacy’s George McConnell. Telemedicine – which involves attending to patients, diagnosing and even treating them via HD video conferencing – can help remove these obstacles to improve patient care and outcomes. In a review study on “The Effects of Telemedicine on Asthma Control and Patients’ Quality of Life in Adults” published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: In Practice, Chongmelaxme et al. found that telemedicine techniques were advantageous in some ways over usual care. They showed that a combination of telemedicine and in-person visits (in this case, for asthma patients) improved control of the disease and quality of life, while telemedicine alone improved patient quality of life.

Findings on Diabetes

Studies focusing on the benefits of telemedicine for diabetes showed that patients who were attended to via video and who had poor glycemic control, were able to improve the latter. Another study on patients with Type 1 diabetes with average blood glucose (sugar) levels of under 8% who were self-administering multiple insulin shots daily. The outcomes for patients who received treatment exclusively by telemedicine was similar to those who met health providers in person. The researchers stated that one of the main benefits of telemedicine for diabetics was its ability to lower costs of healthcare. The aim of medicine isn’t to eliminate the need for face-to-face visits but rather, to reduce the need for them. In this way, time and expenses can be saved and those who lack motivation to physically attend visits can enjoy the convenience of being aided from home.

HD Improves Quality

Cutting edge telemedicine products ensure that vision and sound are optimal and that live chat support is always available. This way, patients with diabetes can inquire about issues that can arise suddenly – including advice on diabetic foot problems such as the appearance of wounds caused by decreased blood flow. Health workers can view issues such as tenderness, blisters, ulcers, and cracked heels and make a quick determination as to whether or not emergency care is necessary. The fact that help is always at end can enable people with diabetes to take the small steps in diet, exercise, and appropriate footwear, to keep complications to a minimum.

A 2019 Meta Analysis

In a 2019 meta analysis published in Telemedicine and e-Health looked into 42 randomized controlled trials involving telemedicine vs standard care in diabetes. Data from over 6,000 patients was examined, obtained from 12 studies on Type 1 diabetes, 21 on Type 2 diabetes, and 9 on patients with Type 1 and 2 diabetes. The findings revealed a significantly larger mean reduction in hemoglobin in the telemedicine group, especially in trials lasting over six months and in patients with Type 2 diabetes. Patients aged over 41 fared better than those in younger age groups. In other studies, even simple text alerts were fond to improve diabetes care.

Telemedicine for Diabetes during COVID-19

Telemedicine is proving to be a useful aid for people with diabetes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Through dedicated diabetes apps such as Health2Sync, people are able to contact their healthcare professionals from their smartphones or tablets, and health workers can check up on patients as needs arise. Data regarding blood sugar levels and steps to take to address any changes can be sent online, with persons using personal meters to measure blood sugar and discussing results via video conference. Telemedicine does not enable health professionals to take other crucial tests – including thyroid tests, but it can bridge a gap and fulfil emergency and general health check needs until society can enjoy greater mobility. One study conducted on the use of telemedicine on a group of elderly people found that “In patients with type 2 diabetes management during the COVID-19 outbreak, telemedicine can improve glycemic control and reduce  anxiety.” In other words, telemedicine also has important psychological benefits that can help diabetics feel more confident and reassured.

mHealth Platforms for Cost Savings

Post COVID-19, telemedicine may continue to play a role in diabetes care – not only because of its effectiveness but also because of recent findings as to its cost effectiveness. A team of researchers at the University of California Berkeley have found that a person who relies on an mHealth platform for diabetes care management can save over $80 per month on medical expenses. The team came to these findings by comparing the blood glucose readings and medical claims data of over 2,000 people enrolled in a specific diabetes program, to around 8,7000 people with diabetes who followed a health plan funded by self-insured employers. The researchers concluded that self-insured employers, at-risk providers and payers have good reason to rely on new technologies to reduce the expense and improve the ease of treating diabetes.

Telemedicine care can make a positive difference in patient treatment and outcomes, as found in various studies and analyses. Something as simple as a text message can serve as a reminder to check feet, check insulin, or take medication. It can also aid with hemoglobin reduction and glucose control in patients with diabetes. New technologies are expected to play an increasing role in reducing expenses and making life easier during times such as the current COVID-19 crisis – when one of the most important preventive steps people with diabetes can take, is to stay home.

Jennifer MacDonald is a nutritionist with a background in biology. In particular, she is fascinated by the role of aging on the body, and how we can slow down the rate of change with smart lifestyle choices.

Photo by Kate on Unsplash

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