Chronic diseases such as diabetes are taxing our healthcare system and the broader economy as well. A new Milken Institute report states that U.S. health care costs for chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and Alzheimer’s disease totaled $1.1 trillion in 2016.

Diabetes is now a growing global problem. While the U.S. healthcare system continues to accelerate early detection and treatment, many countries have many fewer doctors per capita, so the costs – human and financial – can be much greater outside the U.S.

Diabetes-related blood sugar measured by glucometer

Fortunately, there is new evidence telemedicine can play a significant role both in early detection and treatment. A study presented at this spring’s ENDO 2018 conference shows telemedicine shortened wait times and provided comparable blood glucose control rates as traditional in-person care.

Diabetes controlled by telemedicine at the VA

The study took place at the Veterans Affairs (VA) Pittsburgh Healthcare System. Physicians referred veterans with type 2 diabetes to VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System endocrinologists from remote VA facilities. 442 veterans with type 2 diabetes received remote care. Researchers compared their outcomes results to 407 type 2 diabetic veterans who received conventional care.

The conventional care cohort received specialist care within 37 days, but the telemedicine cohort only had to wait 10 days, the study reported.

The speedier care telemedicine provided did not come at the expense of outcomes. Both cohorts showed no differences for systolic blood pressure control and lipid profiles over 12 months post-consult.

“Without incurring any travel, our electronic consultation program provides equally efficacious diabetes care with significantly expedited access,” said Archana Bandi, M.D., the study’s senior investigator and the clinical director of Telehealth Services for VA Pittsburgh Healthcare System. “This type of e-consult is a viable alternative to traditional face-to-face care delivery, especially in remote areas with a shortage of endocrinologists.”

The study concluded telemedicine is an effective option for expanding access to specialty care for the control of diabetes.

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Scott Mace

Scott Mace writes about healthcare, technology and related topics such as computer security, digital identity, and workflow automation. His journalism career spans more than 30 years, writing for such media as InfoWorld, Personal Computing, Byte, Boardwatch, IT Conversations, NurseWeek, HealthLeaders, and Identiverse. In 2015, he was a recipient of a Jessie H. Neal Award, an annual national journalism competition in business reporting, for best technical content in the January/February 2014 HealthLeaders cover story, "The ROI of EHR." For six years, he also served on the international board of directors for CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium.

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