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How Telehealth Technology Revolutionizes Diabetes Care

By Vera Gruessner

- One chronic medical condition that continues to affect the patient population across the country, especially as obesity rates refuse to decline, is diabetes. The management of diabetes can be rather complex, but with the help of telehealth technology, this condition may be better handled by patients throughout the healthcare continuum.

Telemedicine Services and Technologies

The Barbara Davis Center for Diabetes (BDC) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus has developed a program that uses telehealth technology via Vidyo software to help teenagers and young adults who have contracted Type 1 Diabetes. The program allows these patients to have real-time communication with their physician as well as other young adults managing this condition.

To learn more about this study, interviewed Jennifer Raymond, MD, MCR, assistant professor of pediatric endocrinology at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.

What are some of the most important findings from the telemedicine diabetes study?

“Completing appointments by Vidyo from a patients’ home, work, or school is saving young adults time and money associated with travel costs. For example, Eric Thompson, a student participating in CoYoT1 Clinic spent on average 4-5 hours of his and his parents’ day traveling for a single appointment. However, now using Vidyo-enabled telehealth technology, his average time commitment is about one hour,” Dr. Raymond stated.

“Beyond saving time, CoYoT1 also increases young adults’ satisfaction with appointments, providing them the opportunity to connect with peers who also have type 1 diabetes, and helping them meet diabetes standards of care,” Raymond explained. “All of our scheduled patients have completed their appointments, which is huge for this population. Prior to this program, one third of participants had not seen a diabetes doctor in the past 5+ months (the American Diabetes Association (ADA) recommends visits every three months). However, within 1-2 months of recruitment, 100% of patients were seen within the ADA’s recommended time frame via a Vidyo-enabled appointment.”

Why were young adults and teenagers taken as the primary subject in this diabetes telemedicine study?

“Young adults are well-known to be the most challenging population with type 1 diabetes,” she continued. “They have poor diabetes outcomes, increased hospitalizations, and decreased frequency of visits with their diabetes providers.  These challenges are in part related to multiple competing demands on their time, including school, work, and travel.  This age group is also extremely comfortable with technology and are generally very tech-savvy. I wanted to find a way to respect their multiple obligations and ‘meet them where they are’ by using home telehealth for routine diabetes care.”  

Have the young adults and teenagers found the use of telemedicine for diabetes management favorable? What are their most typical reactions?

“Absolutely. Our patients have reported very high satisfaction with the online appointments and technology,” Dr. Raymond clarified. “Young adults are grateful for the efficiency of home telehealth appointments and appreciate connecting with others their age.  They have also felt supported by the entire diabetes team and comfortable with the Vidyo platform.”  

What are some major benefits of telehealth technology? Are there any disadvantages?

“We are connecting with a population who is notoriously unreachable.  We are demonstrating you can provide care for young adults with Type 1 Diabetes, if you respect their competing demands and meet them where they are,” she went on. “Personally, I feel much more connected with my patients. We are establishing a partnership to manage their diabetes, working together as a team, versus having a 'doctor-patient' relationship. It is incredibly rewarding.”  

“The fact that home telehealth is not currently reimbursed by insurance is our largest obstacle. We are currently completing visits with a research grant from The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust and support from the Barbara Davis Center. Our findings will hopefully help shift public and private insurance policy to allow for coverage of similar home telehealth visits in the future,” Dr. Raymond clarified.  

“The need for an Internet connection might be perceived as a deterrent for telehealth, but this has not been an issue in practice. Vidyo’s technology provides a high-quality experience and works on virtually any network. Even young adults who did not have Internet access at home were able to connect reliably with Vidyo from campus or a public library,” Raymond concluded.


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