Telehealth Technology Extends Traditional Care in New Ways: Diabetes Management
Patients with diabetes are among the first to discover the benefits of telehealth technology in healthcare
New types of telehealth technology are making dramatic changes in healthcare. These changes are especially apparent in diabetes management, where access to consistent and high-quality healthcare can quite literally have a life or death impact.
Major healthcare organizations are seeing a wide range of benefits and opportunities in their diabetes telehealth programs. Here’s what you should know when implementing telemonitoring for diabetes management.
An Urgent Need for Diabetes Telehealth Technology
Diabetes, a chronic, life-threatening condition, impacts the body’s ability to turn food into energy. In the U.S., it has reached epidemic status with approximately 34 million children and adults living with diabetes.
Research shows prevention is the key to minimizing the impact of diabetes on a person’s overall health. For example, when diabetes is left unmonitored and untreated, a patient is at a much higher risk of losing a limb to amputation. However, with access to consistent blood sugar monitoring and a qualified healthcare practitioner, a patient’s risk of diabetes-related amputation decreases significantly.
The need for proper diabetes management is becoming even more urgent every day. Between 1980 and 2014, the number of people diagnosed with diabetes jumped from 108 million to 422 million worldwide. As a result, diabetes is becoming the world’s top cause of a cluster of health-threatening conditions, including blindness, kidney failure, stroke, amputation, and heart attacks.
Findings from Telemonitoring vs. Traditional Diabetes Care
As major healthcare organizations adopt innovative forms of diabetes telehealth technology, a wealth of new information is becoming available. These organizations operate on the cutting edge of diabetes care, finding benefits and opportunities to optimize the technology.
In 2018, the journal Medicine Baltimore reported that an analysis of 19 controlled trials involving 6,294 patients found better glycemic control with telehealth compared to usual care. Those are impressive results, considering that the analysis took place two full years before the COVID-19 pandemic, and many of the trials themselves took place several years earlier than that.
A follow-up study based on the original study found similar results. The Journal of Telemedicine and e-Health reported a team of researchers in France who analyzed 42 controlled telemedicine trials and found a significantly greater mean reduction in hemoglobin A1c levels in the telemedicine groups compared with those patients receiving traditional care.
What’s still not clear is which type of technology is best for diabetes management. A review of patient outcomes that considered telephones, mobile devices, and computers for telehealth monitoring found no clear link between technology type and outcome.
Another study found that simple text messages have benefits for diabetes management. In a study of 1,710 individuals with diabetes, lifestyle-focused text alerts significantly improved diabetes care by motivating patients with T2DM to adhere to a healthy lifestyle. Again, this may be evidence that using even the most basic technology is better than using no technology at all.
Recommendations for Diabetes Telehealth Implementation
A successful diabetes telehealth program should follow the best practices of respected organizations like the American Diabetes Association and the American Medical Association (AMA). Here are some things to keep in mind.
The American Diabetes Association makes the following recommendations for best practices in meeting the standard of diabetes care:
- Ensure treatment decisions are timely, evidence-based, and collaborative with patients.
- Delivery systems should allow for person-centered, team-based care and decision support tools.
- Use reliable, relevant metrics to improve health outcomes with attention to costs.
The AMA’s Telehealth Initiative also makes recommendations for choosing telehealth technology in healthcare for positive outcomes and patient experiences. Below is a summary of the AMA’s implementation steps in the Telehealth Quick Guide.
- Identify stakeholder needs
- Form the implementation team
- Define success
- Evaluate vendors using the evaluation tool
- Make a case for telehealth
- Initiate contracts
- Design the workflow
- Prepare the care team
- Partner with the patient
- Implement telehealth technology
- Evaluate success
- Scale up or down as needed
Finally, the journal Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics shared 10 tips for successfully using telehealth technology to assist patients with diabetes management.
- Invest in appropriate telehealth hardware like headphones and microphones.
- Choose video technology that’s HIPAA-compliant.
- Select software with involvement from patients, providers, IT staff, and security staff.
- Schedule carefully for a smooth balance of telehealth and in-person appointments.
- Standardize internal processes.
- Review reimbursement policies.
- Optimize tools for telehealth coding and billing.
- Guide patient expectations for the telehealth experience.
- Promote patient-centered diabetes care at all times.
- Develop a formalized telehealth onboarding process.
Using the tips and best practices described above, a healthcare organization has the best possible chance of conducting a successful telehealth technology implementation. If you need additional help, reach out to AMC Health.
We offer a full suite of telehealth technology solutions for diabetes management. We provide seamless, real-time virtual healthcare that empowers people, maximizes resource management, and improves patient outcomes.
Please schedule a demo to learn more about innovative diabetes management technology.
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