Telemedicine has the potential to improve care for patients with diabetes and significantly reduce healthcare costs. Telehealth programs increase access to healthcare and provide solutions to many healthcare inefficiencies that negatively impact patients with diabetes. A recent meta-analysis sought to prove this very point by comparing telemedicine to usual care among patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes.
Managing Diabetes At Home with Telehealth
Advancements in healthcare technology have allowed many patients with chronic conditions to improve their quality of life and reduce healthcare costs. By increasing access to healthcare services and improving healthcare efficiency, telehealth can enhance patient care for people with a variety of conditions. Patients with diabetes, for example, stand to gain numerous benefits from telehealth. Because diabetes causes problems with overall health, these patients can experience significant financial burden as a result of medication costs and treatments. Additionally, they are at high risk for hospital readmission, which is detrimental to both individual health and finances.
When patients learn to manage diabetes at home, they experience improved health and can reduce spending associated with diabetes. However, these patients need the right tools and knowledge to successfully manage their condition at home. Telemedicine can be used to manage and control diabetes and ensure that patients are properly monitoring their blood glucose. Additionally, telemedicine promotes behavioral change by teaching patients how to adhere to their prescribed medication regimen.
Telemedicine also expands healthcare opportunities for patients who have limited access to healthcare. Patients living in remote or underserved areas can be treated for diabetes remotely. This allows clinicians to address medical changes in a timely manner, while also reducing costs associated with travel for in-person visits.
A Meta-Analysis on Diabetes
A recent meta-analysis sought to prove the value of telehealth among this patient population by comparing the effectiveness of telemedicine to usual care among patients with type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The study’s main outcome was HbA1c, as the authors wanted an objective and reliable outcome measure.
The meta-analysis included 42 randomized controlled trials that examined change in HbA1c after usual care and telemedicine. Eight studies examined teleconsultation, while 34 studies focused on telemonitoring. The studies also varied in the type of diabetes that was studied. Nine studies included patients with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, 21 studies included only patients with type 2 diabetes, and 12 studies included only patients with type 1 diabetes.
Proving The Value of Telehealth
The authors found that the mean reduction in HbA1c was significantly higher in the telemedicine groups compared to the usual care groups. Within the telemedicine groups, type 2 diabetes patients demonstrated a greater reduction in HbA1c compared to patients with type 1 diabetes. Additionally, older patients experienced more benefits from telehealth when compared to younger patients.
These results indicate that telehealth is overall more effective than usual care at helping patients manage diabetes. The study also demonstrated that patients experience more improvements in HbA1c when they participate in telehealth programs for a greater length of time. The authors found that telemedicine programs that lasted longer than 6 months resulted in a significantly greater reduction in HbA1c.
This study has important implications for diabetes care. Telehealth technology not only improves access to healthcare, but can also result in considerably superior outcomes for this patient population. Healthcare providers should seriously consider incorporating telehealth into their care plans for patients with diabetes.
Tchero H, Kangambega P, Briatte C, et al. Clinical Effectiveness of Telemedicine in Diabetes Mellitus: A Meta-Analysis of 42 Randomized Controlled Trials. Telemed J E Health. 2018 Aug 20.