Progressions in healthcare technology have enabled numerous patients with persistent conditions to better their quality of life and decrease costs associated with healthcare facilities. By expanding access to medical services and bettering healthcare effectiveness, telehealth can provide value added and convenient services to patients with varying diseases or chronic conditions.
Patients with diabetes, for instance, are set up to benefit by using telehealth as a platform. Since diabetes causes issues with general wellbeing, patients going through it can encounter huge money related problems because of medicine expenses, tests and treatments. Furthermore, there is a significant likelihood of hospital admission, which is impeding not only to the patient’s health but also his savings and finances.
What is telemedicine?
Telemedicine basically is a term that talks about the process of receiving healthcare remotely from the comfort of your home or your hotel room while a patient is on vacation.
Many people think that the only benefit telemedicine has is that it enables patients to get in touch with their doctor. However, telemedicine is way more than that and has many benefits for patients and doctors alike. Telemedicine helps patients in getting evaluated, diagnosed and cared for at a distance. Video conferencing is an effective approach towards diagnosing diseases and evaluating patients to avoid the need of an in-person visit.
Telemedicine has been present in the medical industry for 35+ years. If you have availed healthcare services in the earlier times, then you may remember how you had to patiently wait in line at the waiting room for your turn at the doctor’s office for a meeting of just a couple of minutes. Not only was it time consuming but it was also very pricey as you had to spend money on transportation every time you wanted to see your care provider. It was especially difficult for office workers who had to take a day off just for the sake of a doctor’s appointment that took hours of waiting just in the line. With the prominence of telemedicine this problem has significantly reduced now because patients are provided with an effective and efficient system.
For feedbacks, reviews or any sort of questions or minor medical urgencies, patients always prefer to get in touch with clinicians over the phone or over the internet rather than giving them an in-person visit. This not only reduces the cost but also saves a lot of valuable time for patients.
Because of these numerous advantages’ telemedicine has become quite popular and it is now known for its efficiency and quality, that is why it is currently being accepted in the US at a large scale. Over the recent years, many states in the US have issued laws which have streamlined the incorporation of telemedicine for medical companies and it has likewise made it easy for patients to acquire those services. Moreover, federal health regulators are looking for methods that will prove to be a step forward in issuing Medicare reimbursements for telemedicine services.
How Is Telemedicine Applied to Diabetes?
A telemedicine program can be evaluated as useful if it is able to meet four criteria by being (1) sound, (2) efficient, (3) cost-effective, and (4) practical. Currently, the telemedical systems present in the market on average meet at least three out of four criteria.
Let’s see how telemedicine is applied to diabetes below:
When people going through diabetes learn to deal with diabetes at the comfort of their house, they are able to achieve better health and they can likewise lower significantly high costs associated with diabetes. However, diabetic people need the correct platform and information to successfully deal with their condition at home. This is where telemedicine comes in. Telemedicine is a highly dependable platform that can be utilized to deal with diabetes, control it substantially and guarantee that diabetic people are correctly examining their blood glucose. Moreover, telemedicine boosts behavioral change by educating patients on how they can comply to their prescribed medication program.
Telemedicine also broadens healthcare opportunities for diabetics that have restricted access to healthcare. Diabetics residing in areas where they don’t have proper access to medical practitioners or hospitals can now with the help of telemedicine easily reach out to practitioners to receive care. This enables practitioners to tackle medical changes in an appropriate amount of time, while also lowering down costs that a person incurs travelling to the hospital for a one-time checkup.
Telemedicine works as an automated platform for people going through diabetes to encourage well-informed decisions on the part of both, the practitioners and the patients. Telemedicine platforms have been created to streamline 6 kinds of data uploaded to the platform such as patient psychological data, medicine prescriptions, overall fitness of patients, etc.
The slew of data can be examined with decision support software. By utilizing this method, a midlevel doctor can get in touch with the patient either on a predetermined consistent response basis if the condition allows or on an automatic urgent as-required basis if a high-risk dangerous event takes place.
Photos of retinal tests or foot injuries can be sent over from a generalist’s workplace to a specialist practitioner at a remote central location. In certain instances, foot photos for remote transmission can be received by patients at home themselves. These photos can be reviewed either in real time by a doctor or right then by a specialist physician at a special remote location.
Telemedicine programs have an effect on a variety of different facets of patient care, which involves informational, clinical, behavioral, structural, and economic. The informational effect is an improved transmission and record of data than handwritten records, which has a lot of drawbacks. For example, notes can sometimes be left incomplete or unintentionally left at home on meeting days with patients. The clinical factor is a more consistent and rapid transmission of information and instructions through the communication channels, which result to enhances outcomes with less A1C levels or lower adverse sequelae. The behavioral factor is increase in consistent therapy appointments and reminders, resulting into increased well informed and empowered patients. The structural factor involves time efficiency for patients who otherwise would need to pay an in person visit to the doctor; however, in contrast, it is found out that the doctor workload of checking emails/messages and updated information on a consistent basis may actually surge. The financial effect of this platform is likely complicated, which is why it isn’t very well understood at this point of time.
A Meta-Analysis on Diabetes
A recent meta-analysis was conducted to validate the significance of telehealth for this patient community by comparing the effeciency of telemedicine to traditional care among diabetics going through type 1 and type 2 diabetes. The research’s most prime outcome was HbA1c, as the publishers were looking for an objective and dependable outcome measure.
The meta-analysis revolved around 42 randomly selected trials that established change in HbA1c after conventional care and telemedicine. Eight studies also determined teleconsultation, whereas there were other 34 studies also which were based on telemonitoring. The research also differentiation on the basis of the type of diabetes that was under study. Nine studies involving diabetics with both type 1 and type 2 diabetes, 21 researches involved only diabetics with type 2 diabetes, and 12 researches involved solely patients with type 1 diabetes.
Proving the Value of Telehealth
The conductors of the above research found out that the mean depletion in HbA1c was substantially inflated in the telemedicine groups compared to the conventional care groups. Out of the patients involved in the the telemedicine groups, type 2 diabetics showed a higher depletion in HbA1c in contrast to diabetics with type 1 diabetes. Moreover, older adults that were involved in this study experienced elevated advantages from telehealth when compared to younger diabetics.
The outcomes of these studies show that telehealth is generally more effecient than conventional care at enabling diabetics manage their condition. The research also exhibited that diabetics face more enhancmenets in HbA1c when they take part in telehealth activities for a longer period of time. The researchers also found that telemedicine programs that were prescribed for longer than half year translated to a substantially larger reduction in HbA1c.
This research has significant importance for diabetes care. Telehealth technology not only enables diabetics to get medical care from the comfort of their home, but can also lead to substantially higher results for this patient population. Doctors should seriously contemplate utilizing telehealth into their care plans for diabetics.
What Are Barriers to the Adoption of Telemedicine?
Significant hurdles in present time restrict the penetration of telemedical care in the US Market. Healthcare practitioners as well patients should join hands in order to tackle these barriers to make telemedicine ubiquitous and widely accepted in the healthcare industry.
Barriers in telemedicine that doctors face are only technical but also systemic.
For most practitioners, technical barriers, such as not being aware of how to use technology, inadequate access to equipment, or a lack of technical expertise, will impede the widespread adoption of telemedicine.
Additionally, there have been growing concerns related to patient and practice privacy breach. This concern has especially been on a rise since several breaches in banking industry and hospital industry. Moreover, practitioners are also concerned about not being able to access important healthcare related data when power goes out or if the machines malfunction. Additionally, a telemedicine program must allow accommodation of various producers of glucose meters.
Perhaps the most prominent hurdles to telemedicine becoming ubiquitous in the healthcare industry are systemic—the prime issues are inapt or scarce reimbursement and licensing/malpractice concerns. Currently there are significant insurance companies or healthcare plan providers that don’t extend their benefits to telemedicine encounters, which is why patients can’t fully adopt telemedicine as a reliable option for getting treated. This, however has changed significantly in the recent years and it is expected that telemedicine is going to continue to gain prominence on the government level in the upcoming years.
In a capitated surrounding, like government run insurances or a medical maintenance body, there can be general cost cuttings by putting forth money in telemedicine care to get improved results with less OTP visits and lesser hospital readmissions.
Prior to telemedicine gaining prominence and being widely practiced, it is vital to put forth money in creating an EMR and for doctors to get trained to provide this type of facility, which can additionally discourage practitioners from fully being open to employing this approach.
Moreover, apart from these financial troubles, many laws on the state level extending to liability, malpractice, state licensing, and antitrust have created an uncertain environment for telemedicine doctors. Regarding licensure and liability of practitioners who offer telemedical services for diabetics or people with other conditions in another state, it isn’t clear whether doctors providing such facilities may lawfully practice medicine beyond their state boundaries.
In a malpractice suit, telemedicine doctors may be led to guard themselves against being sued in the state where they have the license to practice medicine, and also in the state where the patient came across the uncertain industry that led to injury. In the state of Georgia, the Georgia Partnership for telemedicine was developed by John Oxendine, the State Commissioner of Fire Safety and Insurance, in consultation with the state medical board and the state insurance industry. This project has made the practice of telemedicine there legal and a covered service by malpractice insurance carriers.
Like discussed above telemedicine has numerous benefits for various conditions. If you are a diabetic, you can use the telemedicine platform to not only get prescription online and stay connected to your doctor but you can also receive tailored healthcare and physical activity plans that will further better your health and be beneficial for your diabetes. The studies cited above show that diabetics can significantly advantage from telemedicine rather than traditional care.