As healthcare benefit costs continue to rise, and the incidence of diabetes grows, large U.S. employers look for ways to reduce healthcare costs, while offering benefits and services that their employees value. Telehealth meets both these needs. First, telehealth helps to contain costs by replacing higher-cost care settings, such as urgent care and the ER. At the same time, telehealth is viewed by employees as a perk due to the convenience it provides.
Diabetes is a growing epidemic affecting the US today. The CDC estimates that there are more than 100 million people living with diabetes or prediabetes. This represents approximately one in every three people and yet these staggering numbers continue to climb. At the same time, our healthcare system is facing its own set of challenges with a physician shortage amongst both primary care providers and specialists, a shift to value-based care, increased expectations from patients in the face of the consumerism of healthcare and decreased reimbursement.
In the face of all these challenges, innovative healthcare solutions continue to emerge. Many of these solutions are focused on increasing the efficiency of providers, increasing patient engagement and/or increasing outcomes. One of the more popular solutions meeting these needs is telehealth, which has the potential to be a game-changer by enabling efficient population health management.
What is Telehealth?
The HRSA defines telehealth as the use of electronic information and telecommunication technologies to support long-distance clinical health care, patient and professional health-related education, public health and health administration. Technologies include video conferencing, the internet, store-and-forward imaging, streaming media, and terrestrial and wireless communications. It’s important to note, that while telehealth and telemedicine are similar, the difference lies in the broader scope of telehealth. Telehealth can refer to remote non-clinical services, such as provider training, administrative meetings, and continuing medical education, in addition to clinical services; while telemedicine is focused on the later.
How Does Telehealth Help?
The role of telehealth across the spectrum of population health management continues to evolve. According to a recent report by AHIP and CTAC, “telehealth has long been viewed as a game-changer for healthcare service delivery. When fully embraced and executed, telehealth can expand and enhance the delivery of health care services...” Additionally, according to the same report, “telehealth of those with chronic conditions has been growing in popularity among both doctors and health insurance providers alike”. So how is it that telehealth helps? And what are the specific ways in which patients living with diabetes can benefit from telehealth usage?
There are three main advantages to the use of telehealth.
1. Increased patient engagement
Telehealth helps to bridge the gap between doctor’s appointments. Instead of a patient only being seen on an ad-hoc basis, patients are able to actively engage in the management of their health on an ongoing basis -- whether it be through the collection of daily vitals, post-appointment follow up calls or the delivery of educational materials -- telehealth helps to increase the engagement patients have with their health and their care team by proactively sharing information. Read more about how mySugr has been successfully engaging with patients.
2. Increase in access to care
Patients in rural or traditionally underserved areas are able to access care remotely, from the comfort of their home. This lessens the need to travel to get to a specialist when you are living in a remote area. Additionally, for those older patients or those with difficulty leaving their homes, they are able to access care more frequently, not having to deal with finding transportation to and from doctor visits. This increased access ultimately leads to lower costs, as patients are able to get the care they need when they need it -- proactively.
3. Increase in effectiveness of care
With the ongoing sharing of data and information, both patients and providers have better access to information, allowing for proactive interventions when needed, better interactions with providers as patients are able to share their own personal health data with providers at regularly scheduled doctor visits and they are able to increase the frequency of interactions with providers, i.e. when there are minor issues that can be easily solved through education.
How Does Telehealth Help Diabetes Population Management?
While the overall benefits of telehealth are obvious -- how exactly can telehealth help with diabetes population management? The key is understanding the importance of lifestyle behavior change and the ways in which personalized care can help instill long-lasting behavior change. A 2017 study focusing on population health management for diabetes, found that personalized provider feedback and decision support tools can improve care and outcomes and the focus should be on tailoring population care and leveraging improvements in clinical information systems and care integration to help prevent diabetes in the future. This means that in order to instill long-lasting behavior change, patients must receive the exact support they need when they need it.
Here at mySugr, we believe delivering the right support at the right time is paramount in supporting those living with diabetes. mySugr’s Integrated Diabetes Management Solution is built around the principle of holistic care that can provide the personalized support patients need when they need it. We’ve created an integrated, flexible and completely customizable program, both working with the devices that an individual already has but also allowing individuals to customize the information that they share.
In addition to the app, mySugr offers certified diabetes educators (CDEs) to add value through the patient’s journey and to provide support between physician appointments. This ensures that patients receive the tailored support they need when they need it. Recently, we had the opportunity to sit down with mySugr’s Digital Diabetes Clinical Manager, Molly Wagman, to discuss the benefits of diabetes coaching, and how CDE coaching has had a significant impact on blood glucose control
The Future of Telehealth and Diabetes Population Management
The goal of using a tailored population care approach and leveraging the improvements in clinical information systems and care integration is already helping to shape the face of diabetes treatment. And with organizations like CMS expanding reimbursement coverage into telehealth, it feels as though the future of telehealth is happening now. Companies like mySugr with a vision to make diabetes suck less are well positioned to leverage these trends and continue to help patients living with diabetes live longer and healthier lives.
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