Using Telehealth To Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Stay-at-home orders mean that more and more of us are also accessing healthcare from home. It seems that Zoom calls are replacing visits to the doctor’s office and telehealth is becoming the norm. Can telehealth replace every doctor’s appointment? What effect would that have on how we manage type 2 diabetes? Let’s take a look.
What is telehealth, anyway?
The first thing to realize is that telehealth is more than just Zoom calls. Telehealth is when healthcare is delivered using telecommunications. That can mean sharing information over the internet, in an email, or on the phone.
Without realizing it, you may have already used telehealth. If you’ve ever had a phone appointment with a healthcare professional, or emailed a question to your doctor’s office, or ordered a prescription refill online, then you’ve used telehealth.
Why use telehealth for type 2 diabetes?
Telehealth has a number of advantages that make it appealing for both people with type 2 diabetes and their healthcare team.
Convenience is probably the number one advantage offered by telehealth. Telehealth makes it possible to get in touch whenever needed from wherever you happen to be. There is no need to travel to the doctor’s office just to get a question answered. Prescription refills can be ordered outside of normal business hours, even while in your slippers!
This is a fancy way of saying that the patient and healthcare professional don’t have to be in the same place at the same time to share information. Being able to look at lab results online is one example of asynchronous communications. This is much quicker than having to wait until your next doctor’s appointment or office phone call to get your results.
Acess to health records
Health records are more easily accessible using some kinds of telehealth. This is especially true when your health system uses a patient portal. A patient portal is a secure website that you can log in to. Patient portals can house information like lab results and notes from appointments. They can also be used to make appointments, send messages, and look up general medical information.
Even if your healthcare system doesn’t have a patient portal, you can keep a written record by saving email or text messages.
Lower out-of-pocket costs
Lower cost can be an unexpected benefit of telehealth. Many of the appointments and services delivered using telehealth don’t involve a copay. And since you don’t have to travel to the doctor’s office, you don’t have to pay the cost of transportation.
Can telehealth take care of all my type 2 diabetes needs?
The short answer is no. There are times when telehealth isn’t an effective approach.
The most obvious of these is in an emergency. Since there can be a time lag in communication with telehealth, in an emergency it can be downright unsafe. One example would be where you’re experiencing a persistent hypoglycemic episode.
Also, there are still medical exams and procedures that require your physical presence. Drawing blood for lab work is an example. A diabetes foot exam is another.
Since healthcare is being delivered over the phone or internet, telehealth requires reliable connections and a way to access a phone or the internet. This can make it difficult or impossible to use telehealth in communities where coverage is spotty or by people who don’t have a smartphone or broadband access.
Telehealth is part of the new normal
It looks like, now that patients and healthcare providers have experienced the benefits of it, they are ready to adopt telehealth as part of their new normal. What began as a way to cope with stay-at-home orders has added a convenient way to encourage and support ongoing diabetes management.
How well does your doctor explain diabetes care terms to you?