Telemedicine’s Role in Diabetes Management
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2010, seven of the top ten causes of death in the United States were chronic diseases. About 50 percent of all adults have one or more chronic health conditions and about 25 percent have two or more chronic health conditions. These chronic diseases and conditions include asthma, COPD, hypertension, heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity, and arthritis. Does telemedicine have a role in managing these diseases? Survey says – of course!
Telehealth interventions such as virtual visits, remote patient monitoring devices, and web-based communication tools are key to improving patient care in a cost effective, efficient manner. For diabetes patients, these interventions are quickly making a large impact in the management of the disease as well as prevention of further complications from the disease.
The CDC 2014 National Diabetes Statistics Report reported 29.1 million people in the United States have diabetes. For these patients, 9.3% of the U.S. population, managing their disease involves a combination of mindful eating, regular physical activity, medications to lower blood glucose levels, and reducing cardiovascular disease risk factors. Diabetic patients must commit to regular blood sugar monitoring for tight control of their glucose levels. This is where telehealth comes in!
In a recent study examining the effectiveness of telemedicine for management of type II diabetes, researchers concluded that the telemedicine system allows for tighter glycemic control in treating Type II Diabetes Mellitus (T2DM) patients. In a randomized study of 108 patients with T2DM, 53 patients were placed in a telemedicine group and 55 patients were placed in the control group with traditional face-to-face visits. In the telemedicine group, patients were taught to upload their blood glucose levels and key behaviors (smoking, drinking, diet, and physical activity) to the telemedicine system at least once every 2 weeks. Researchers would then monitor the blood glucose levels, analyze the data to advise changes in key behaviors, and solve diabetes-related problems in daily life. When necessary, the patients were advised to seek outpatient treatment for further evaluation. In the control group, without intervention, patient went to their outpatient clinic as usual, where blood glucose levels were measured and monitored. At the conclusion of the trial, after 3 months, patients using telemedicine exhibited better HbA1c and fasting blood glucose controlling, decreased hypoglycemia risk, and levels of HbA1c less than 7% (the target level.)
The telemedicine system acts as a supplementary management system between patients’ traditional visits. It allows for safer self-management of patients at home – because, though patients are using at-home blood glucose meters to monitor changes in glucose levels, regulating their intake of oral medicine or injectable insulin can often require the guidance of a medical provider. By allowing medical providers to view and assess patient glucose levels remotely, telemedicine reduces patient risk significantly. Plus, in addition to the clinical benefits, a reduction in the number of face-to-face evaluations by patients means a significant saving of time and community resources!