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Diabetes Care During COVID-19: The Power of Telemedicine

By Divya Gopisetty

Expert physicians share a few of the benefits of virtual appointments for people living with diabetes

Because of COVID-19, medical appointments through video or phone calls are becoming more common for people managing diabetes. A recently published article, “Managing New-Onset Type 1 Diabetes During the COVID-19 Pandemic,” in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics describes how telemedicine can help people with newly diagnosed type 1 diabetes through at-home virtual appointments.

Some of the article highlights include:

  • Many people with diabetes and healthcare professionals are discovering the benefits of telehealth.

    • People with diabetes can connect with their healthcare professional from their computer or phone. This helps people avoid the cost, time, and inconvenience of travel to and from appointments.

    • These appointments can help people better understand their blood sugar patterns and time in range. Technology gives people an opportunity to reflect on their successful moments and build confidence in their diabetes management; people can learn from their blood sugar data, making habits of the things that work well.

  • Diabetes technology more easily allows for data sharing between people and their healthcare teams. While downloading the data can be an obstacle for some without the necessary equipment at home or without the education about how to do it, this is addressable. Learn more about sharing your data here from the office of Dr. Anne Peters in Los Angeles and top educator and public health leader Mark Harmel.

  • Though telemedicine has existed for a long time in theory (since the first smartphone was invented or even since modems were invented), regulations put many limits on video health appointments before COVID-19. For example, in the past, many healthcare professionals could only do telemedicine appointments with people in their state. The need for medical care during shelter-in-place has eliminated many of these obstacles. This benefit may remain long after the pandemic. A larger problem was reimbursement and the fact that Medicare, before COVID-19, did not reimburse these visits, nor did many large payers. In other countries like India, for example, the regulations changed in three days, and reimbursement is taken care of, according to Dr. Viswanathan Mohan. However, other barriers remain, including access to privacy.

  • Improvements in diabetes technology and telehealth policies raise the question of how telehealth can be involved in diabetes care in the long term. Of course, telemedicine does have its limitations, including not being able to perform a complete physical exam, which is needed for things like checking thyroid health, checking feet (this can be done to some degree), taking blood pressure, etc. Luckily, there are some workarounds, and we expect more will come – and, it is critically important for people to know when an in-person appointment is needed.

Want to learn more about telemedicine and how to prepare for a virtual appointment? Read Top Nine Tips For Diving Into Telemedicine With Your Doctor During COVID-19 by diaTribe advisor Dr. Francine Kaufman.

This article is part of a series on time in range made possible by support from the Time in Range Coalition. The diaTribe Foundation retains strict editorial independence for all content. 

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