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Telemedicine and Diabetes

January 27, 2021
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One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that many health care providers, and organizations of all types for that matter, have been thrust into the world of all-things virtual. This has been really helpful for many people who have to drive hours to see their health care team, and helps people keep their social distancing practices until COVID is in the rearview mirror.

In Diabetes Therapy, in an article titled, “Application of Telemedicine in Diabetes Care: The Time is Now,” Austrian endocrinologists argue that using telemedicine can help improve access to care and minimize the possible exposures to people with diabetes amidst the pandemic.1 Some of the barriers they discuss are insurance coverage, lack of access to technology (especially internet), and increased workload on the health care team.1

Since March 2020, a waiver was enacted to allow the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to cover more telehealth visits through a variety of platforms such as video conferencing, online patient portals, and even telephone visits for those who do not have access to internet.2 Typically, in the U.S. healthcare system, CMS will approve of coverage for something and then private insurance companies will follow.

A taskforce for the Endocrine Society published an article in January 2021 about taking advantage of the pandemic and creating a “New Normal” for diabetes health care.3  In the article, the authors state, “telemedicine has become a critical strategy to improve access to diabetes care (e378),” and discuss how advances in diabetes technologies and electronic health records have also improved telemedicine.3 They go on to recommend continuing innovation and recommend that health care professionals who feel less confident in using telehealth seek out learning opportunities to help better serve their patients.

Health care providers who have started doing more telehealth during the pandemic than before have really enjoyed being able to see their patients in their home environment, and no one can forget their BG meter in their own home.

People with diabetes have reported that they feel their telehealth visits are just as valuable as their past in-person visits.4 Australia surveyed 596 people with diabetes and 61.9% reported their telehealth visits were “just as good as” or “better than” their usual in-person medical appointment experience.4 In Italy, a study was conducted on 71 people with type 1 diabetes in which they did structured phone visits instead of in-person visits.5 This study found that average blood glucose and time in range were both improved in these circumstances.5

Utilizing telemedicine to practice social distancing is one of the realities of our current situation, and there are many ways to make the most out of your visits with your health care team. Sharing your CGM or pump data, looking at your BG meter data with your provider, and having that extra time that you would normally be commuting to and from your appointment. We are going to have a session about this at our upcoming Friends for Life Spring Refuel Conference March 19-21, and would love to hear your thoughts!

Hang in there, friends.

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7816834/
  2. https://www.cms.gov/newsroom/fact-sheets/medicare-telemedicine-health-care-provider-fact-sheet
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7665547/
  4. https://www.jmir.org/2020/12/e24531/
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7790327/

Written and clinically reviewed by Marissa Town, RN, BSN, CDCES