November is American Diabetes Month, a time where public awareness shifts towards the disease and advancements made towards its treatment and prevention methods. And this month of up-ticked awareness is much needed when you consider just how prevalent diabetes is in the US population. According to the American Diabetes Association, 34.2 million Americans (10.5% of the overall population) are diagnosed with the disease. What’s even scarier is the fact that these numbers were taken from a 2018 survey and that 1.5 million new cases of diabetes are reported every year on average.

Fortunately, recent world developments have also brought telehealth and remote care capabilities to the foreground. Providers have been forced to adopt these socially-distant practices and many have started to realize their merit in treating chronic illnesses like diabetes. 

We’ve discussed before how telehealth innovations like wearables and portable medical cart computers have been used to enhance chronic care management but, in the spirit of American Diabetes Month, let’s discuss how telehealth and diabetes management in particular are able to blend seamlessly together.

Furthermore, let’s delve into different tools and practices your facility can adopt in order to better care for diabetes patients with telehealth – because if one thing is for certain, it’s the fact that both diabetes and telehealth adoption rates are set to increase as years pass.

Remote Patient Monitoring Will be Key for Telehealth and Diabetes Management

Chronic illnesses, varied as they may be, have one thing in common: they require consistent, regular care in order to manage. Diabetes is no different as patients and physicians both need to stay vigilant over things like blood glucose levels, carbohydrate intake, and activity levels in order to decrease the illness’ risk to a patient’s life. Thankfully, remote patient monitoring – which has been exploding in popularity alongside telehealth – has a surprising amount of overlap between its capabilities and what’s called for in diabetes management.

Using specific vital tracking hardware and software that’s common in several remote monitoring programs, physicians have been able to put together “kits” they send home with patients that allow them to share key metrics like blood glucose levels with their physicians.

Sounds good! But, what goes into those kits can vary wildly depending on the illness being treated and what needs to be tracked. So, what goes into a kit that has been optimized for telehealth and diabetes management?

Things to Include in Your Remote Care Kit

This is by no means an exhaustive list nor is everything mentioned here an absolute must-have. It’s very likely your patient will already have some of these devices, making your job a little easier. 

Regardless, below are a few tools that enhance patient engagement while also improving telehealth and diabetes management practices optimized for the remotely accessed patient.

Smart Body Weight Scale

Weight loss remains one of the most effective ways to both prevent and treat diabetes in patients. Lower body weight means a patient’s body becomes more sensitive to insulin released by the pancreas which means that insulin becomes more effective at managing blood glucose levels.

It’s important to consider, however, that this doesn’t mean all weight loss is encouraged. You want patients to lose fat while maintaining their lean body weight and muscle. To that end, smart scales that give patients readings body weight and other metrics like body fat percentage and muscle mass help patients track their weight loss and ensure it’s the right kind of weight loss geared for their goals. 

Smart scales can also be paired with smartphone applications allowing for patients to log these readings without any manual labor, making it much easier to store data an also share it with a physician in real time.

Smart Food Scale

Body weight scales aren’t the only scales your patient will need to familiarize themselves with. Diet is exponentially important in managing diabetes and its symptoms. Carbohydrates in particular cause a large spike in blood glucose and is one of the macronutrients patients need to track very closely in many cases. 

Because of this, a food scale that allows users to measure their meals to the gram and account for their carbohydrate levels is almost a non-negotiable for those looking to manage their illness. Fortunately for the sake of telehealth for diabetes management, these scales can also be smart-enabled, making them much easier to use and log results into phone applications that can then be beamed over to a physician for analysis. 

Solutions like Escali’s SmartConnect are a perfect example of scales that are easily integrated into a patient’s life and also allow for telehealth and diabetes management to meld together in effective, innovative ways.

Food Tracking Applications

This isn’t necessarily a physical piece of hardware to be included in a kit. Rather, simply educating patients on food tracking applications such as MyFitnessPal can give them the tools they need to start tracking their diets, calories, and carbohydrates.

These applications are often equipped with the ability to integrate with solutions like the smart scales we mentioned earlier, creating a kind of “ecosystem” in which tracking, logging, and sharing data becomes so much more easily performed. In many cases, patients mistakenly believe all of this tracking and monitoring is prohibitively difficult. Having that perceived barrier broken down by smart-tech ecosystems such as these can help patients feel encouraged to maintain, and sometimes even adopt new, healthy practices. 

As an added bonus to food tracking applications like MyFitnessPal, many of them also integrate well with physician EHRs and allow for data to be updated on records in real time. Of course, you’ll want to ensure you do your research and find an app that integrates with your specific EHR provider’s software. 

Glucose Tracking Wearables

Healthcare wearables applications are constantly evolving, especially now as we see an industry-wide push towards remote care. Naturally, we’ve also seen these wearables make strides in enhancing telehealth for diabetes management as well.

Insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitoring systems have remained staples in treating diabetes from afar. Their automated nature and ability to be set for scheduled readings by physicians make them very low effort for patients which can often improve their adherence to treatment plans.

Having this continuous reading of glucose levels also gives patients a much deeper look into how their food and activity choices play a role in their blood sugar in the short and long term. And as we’ve explained many times in previous posts, an educated patient is one that is more likely to see positive results and adhere to treatments.

Other Tools to Consider for Telehealth and Diabetes Management

Video Calling

Telehealth for diabetes management takes more than simply reporting and analyzing readings. Regular communication with patients is a key tenet of remote care and as such, you’ll want your medical devices to be optimized for remote outreach. Phone calls and video check ins have even been proven to improve patient outcomes and increase adherence by up to 50%.

Portable medical devices such as a computer on wheels or a medical grade tablet are ideal for these checkups since they can be moved to secluded rooms with ease, allowing for patients to feel more comfortable sharing personal information and giving physicians the ability to maintain confidentiality. 

Population Health Management

Social determinants such as income, availability of quality food, and living conditions can have a profound impact on who develops diabetes and how their bodies respond to it. The ADA even highlights that certain ethnicities can be more prone to the illness based on cultural habits involving food and other risk factors.

Having an understanding of your patient population, its most common social issues and its cultural makeup can help you take a predictive approach towards preparing your facility to treat diabetes and its effects on that specific population. 

There are a number of ways you can begin building out this understanding. Clinical collaboration programs, patient questionnaires, and reaching out to Health Information Exchange representatives remain best practices for population health management.   

Patient Education Resources

Increased health literacy in patients has been linked to better outcomes across the board. All of the tools and smart devices in the world won’t make a difference if a patient doesn’t understand why they’re doing what they’re doing and how each action takes them a step closer to their goals. 

Consider referring patients to the ADA’s website for an abundance of resources on nutritional education, the inner machinations of diabetes, recipes, and much much more. 

Telehealth for Diabetes Management Requires Both Patient and Physician Vigilance

Treating diabetes takes a team effort. Physicians and providers can be there to educate and provide treatment, but it’s also up to the patient to adopt lifestyle changes that keep their blood glucose in check and promote a healthier, longer life. Having the right hardware and programs in place can help facilitate this collaboration between providers and patients that is so essential to treating one of the world’s most common chronic illnesses. For more information on how you can get started improving your facility’s approach to telehealth and diabetes management, contact an expert from Cybernet today.