CHICAGO – A telehealth program for diabetes self-management helps improve blood sugar control for veterans with Type 2 diabetes, according to a recent study at the Veterans Affairs Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
The study found that veterans who participated in the e-consult program had a similar drop in A1c levels to those who had traditional face-to-face visits.
“This type of e-consult is a viable alternative to traditional face-to-face care delivery, especially in remote areas with a shortage of endocrinologists,” said Dr. Archana Bandi, the study’s senior investigator and the clinical director of telehealth services for VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System.
While a typical e-consult is meant to be a one-time recommendation, the telediabetes program provides team-based care with follow-up. It merges an electronic consultation from an endocrinologist specializing in diabetes with ongoing telephone-based care, said Bandi.
For the e-consult, an endocrine provider reviews the patient’s medical record and conducts a 20- to 30-minute phone interview with the patient and family before electronically sending the referring physician recommendations to share with the patient on lowering his or her blood sugar levels. A nurse on the diabetes care team monitors the patient’s progress via phone calls over the next three to six months. The primary care provider obtains all needed laboratory tests and makes recommended changes in the therapeutic regimen. Patients are also offered ancillary services such as nutrition counseling and diabetes education services close to home.
Bandi said that with a growing provider shortage in the country, along with obesity and diabetes epidemics, technology will be the key to serving more patients, especially those who live in rural areas.
“Technology takes the barrier of distance away,” she said. “We want to take care from being fragmented and episodic to continuous, and we want to move patients from sickness to wellness. Technology will help us do that.”