Your Guide to Telehealth for Diabetes

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5 Reasons Why You Should Use Telehealth for Diabetes

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senior Caucasian couple sitting on living room couch holding up tablet with telehealth doctor's appointment

If you live with diabetes, telehealth could be a helpful tool to achieve the best outcomes. Talk with your doctor about the telehealth opportunities available to you.

Diabetes requires lifelong care that is beyond many people’s reach. Telehealth, also referred to as telemedicine, connects you with your doctor over video chat, phone call, digital messaging, and even text message, Telehealth also includes the use of tracking devices that can help you and your doctor better understand your diabetes. Understand why telehealth is getting so much attention and how it can help you manage your diabetes successfully.

1. Using telehealth for diabetes increases access to care.

A million people are newly diagnosed with diabetes in the United States every year. Many of them go on to develop serious complications, including retinopathy, eye disease that can cause vision loss, high blood pressure (hypertension), heart disease, kidney failure, and toe, foot, and leg amputation.

Avoiding complications and treating them effectively requires a highly coordinated effort among specialists and resources, but they’re stretched too thin. Demand for diabetes care far exceeds supply, and people living with diabetes are falling through the cracks. The tools of telehealth solve the challenge by broadening access to care and delivering that care more efficiently, using resources like wireless internet, two-way video conferencing, high-definition cameras, smartphone apps, text messaging, and email.

2. Telehealth can be less expensive than in-person visits.

Diabetes is a complex condition. The costs can add up quickly for the healthcare system and the individual. In the United States, the cost of caring for someone with diabetes is 230% higher than caring for someone without it, and the cost has risen significantly over the last decade. The average person living with diabetes can now expect to spend nearly $10,000 a year on diabetes care, not all of which is covered by insurance.

Telehealth has proven to be a sound method for quality care that is more cost-effective than traditional in-office visits. Most insurers cover it and if you’re without insurance, out-of-pocket fees tend to be lower than those for in-person appointments. It also eliminates the cost to patients of transportation and time away from work.

3. Telemedicine offers additional support.

Physical activity is at the core of any diabetes treatment plan because it helps keep blood sugar in good control, lowers blood pressure, and improves mood. The American Diabetes Association recommends that people with diabetes get 150 minutes of moderate exercise every week, but most of them don’t. One study showed only 50% of people enrolled in a diabetes exercise program were participating after three months, and only 10% were participating after one year.

The problem isn’t laziness. It’s a lack of resources for exercising safely. People with diabetes need to keep certain risks in mind when exercising, like avoiding foot and leg injury, anticipating low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), and adjusting insulin dosages to account for exercise.

Telehealth brings the right resources and instructions to patients’ homes electronically, wherever they live, so they can follow an exercise program with confidence. Your doctor or Certified Diabetes Educator can observe your exercise regimen and provide real-time feedback, or you may be connected with a physical therapist who can provide this service.

4. Telehealth provides education for successful self-management.

No one is born knowing how to manage diabetes. It takes a great deal of education to take all the steps necessary, like checking blood sugar at the right times, adopting a new diet, and assessing feet for sores, nerve damage, and circulation problems.

In a strained healthcare system, the time healthcare providers have to work with their patients is reduced, and communication between providers and patients suffers. Using telehealth gives patients the opportunity to access providers virtually without the limits of their location, connecting them with providers who can educate them at their convenience.

5. Telehealth can improve the patient experience.

Research has shown that telehealth motivates people living with diabetes to follow through with their parts of their treatment plan, like monitoring blood sugar, making healthy lifestyle choices, and managing stress. The ease of use and convenience encourage patients to participate more frequently and engage more fully.

Telehealth builds confidence and drives progress. Patients tend to get comfortable with it quickly. One study showed 99% of diabetes patients participating in a telehealth self-management program were at ease with the technology, understood the information as well as they did in person, and found the electronic images and audio sounds to be clear.

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Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS
Last Review Date: 2020 Jul 22
  1. Telemedicine Diabetes Consultations Are Cost-Effective, and Effects on Essential Diabetes Treatment Parameters Are Similar to Conventional Treatment: 7-Year Results from the Svendborg Telemedicine Diabetes Project. Journal of Diabetes Science and Technology. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/193229681300700302
  2. Interactive Video Telehealth Models to Improve Access to Diabetes Specialty Care and Education in the Rural Setting: A Systematic Review. American Diabetes Association. https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/30/2/124
  3. Diabetes Telehealth in the 21st Century: Log In to the Future of Medicine. American Diabetes Association. https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/26/4/207
  4. Telemedicine Cost-Effectiveness for Diabetes Management: A Systematic Review. National Library of Medicine National Center for Biotechnology Information. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/29812965/
  5. The Cost of Diabetes. American Diabetes Association. https://www.diabetes.org/resources/statistics/cost-diabetes#:~:text=People%20with%20diagnosed%20diabetes%20incur,in%20the%20absence%20of%20diabetes
  6. Promoting Physical Activity in Individuals With Diabetes: Telehealth Approaches. American Diabetes Association. https://spectrum.diabetesjournals.org/content/24/3/127
  7. Using Telehealth to Provide Diabetes Care to Patients in Rural Montana: Findings from the Promoting Realistic Individual Self-Management Program. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3208251/
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