Telehealth Diabetes Care for Health Clinics in Rural Areas

Summary: The VSee + Advantech telemedicine cart solution is providing accessible specialist Tele-ophthalmology care for elderly diabetics in rural Taiwan

Diabetes is a chronic disease that currently affects approximately 463 million adults (aged 20 – 79 years) worldwide, according to the International Diabetes Federation. Over the next 10 years, the number of diabetics is expected to rise dramatically in developing countries. As technology improves and becomes more convenient, telemedicine is expected to play a key role in providing diabetes care to those who need it, especially those who traditionally have not had access to quality healthcare due to geographical barriers.

In both the US and Taiwan, about 10% of the total population has diabetes. Although keeping diabetes under control is important at any age, there is a high prevalence of diabetic retinopathy in patients over the age of 40, affecting about one-third. Diabetic retinopathy causes floaters, blurriness, dark areas of vision, difficulty perceiving colors, and in some cases blindness. Thus, it is necessary for these diabetics to get regular eye examinations by an ophthalmologist or optometrist specializing in diabetes-related eye health.

Challenges of elderly diabetic patients in rural areas

For patients who live in urban areas, regular follow-up appointments are less of a problem. However, for many older diabetics living in rural areas, the lack of local facilities means they may have to travel to a neighboring district to access the nearest hospital for follow-up appointments. For many such patients, this typically mean at least 1.5 hours on the road. Patients will also have up to another hour of wait time before being seen by the physician. Such a lengthy commute can be particularly challenging for elderly people, especially if living alone.

Furthermore, recent fears of COVID-19 transmission has also caused many residents to stop attending their routine appointment and progress checkups.

While there are mobile ophthalmology vehicles that travel to local villages every two months, this is insufficient to deal with current demands. A lack of medical resources and lengthy travel times can cause treatment delays and result in additional medical expenses.

Advantech mobile telehealth cart for Taipei City community health centers

To address this issue, one of Taipei’s public health centers adopted the VSee videoconference platform integrated with Advantech’s AMiS-72 telehealth cart. The complete solution includes a digital diagnostics set, video capture software, a HD pan-tilt-zoom (PTZ) camera, and high-quality speakers. Images captured by the integrated digital ophthalmoscope can be shared and annotated via VSee, which also supports group video calls. 

For doctors, the AMiS-72 cart can be used to communicate with patients in real time, conduct remote physical examinations by controlling the PTZ camera, share videos and images via the screen sharing function, and review laboratory test results, CT scans, and EHR data. Group video can used to easily bring in other specialists or family members as needed.

Benefits of deploying a telehealth solution

By expanding data access and real-time communication in healthcare, the AMiS-72 telehealth cart solution enables elderly diabetics to visit their local health center rather than a hospital for checkups. The doctor on the patient’s side can connect with a specialist at the hospital, stream or share images, annotate test results, and discuss the patient’s condition in real time all via the AMiS-72 telehealth cart. Afterwards, patients can be prescribed medication or treatment based on the outcome of the teleconsultation between both doctors.

The implementation of the telehealth solution has dramatically improved access to diabetes-related healthcare in rural areas of Taipei and New Taipei City.

With the VSee+Advantech telehealth solution enabling the realization of telehealth services, patient travel times are reduced to under one hour, improving the accessibility of medical resources.

Now, elderly patients not only have easier access to medical care, but doctors can also extend the range of healthcare services they provide. Furthermore, because of the success of this project, other public health centers in rural areas are also keen to deploy the VSee+Advantech AMiS-72 telehealth cart solution.

Watch the video below for examples of the range of healthcare services that can be delivered via telehealth: