By Betty M. Drees, MD, FACP, FACE
The use of telehealth to care for people with diabetes had been increasing even before COVID-19. This is largely because management of diabetes is greatly dependent on people with diabetes helping to care for themselves and because they already use technology to keep track of blood sugars. Research shows that use of telehealth improves control of blood sugar, cholesterol and blood pressure in people with diabetes.
If you plan to use telehealth care with your provider for diabetes, here are some things to keep in mind:
- TELEHEALTH FOR DIABETES IS BETTER FOR FOLLOW-UP CARE NOT FIRST VISIT.
On your first visit for diabetes care, your doctor will want to get to know you and will do a complete in-person evaluation, which is better done in person. He or she may also recommend you attend a series of diabetes education classes that can be done using telehealth.
- SOME THINGS CAN’T BE DONE BY TELEHEALTH.
Doctors can’t do a complete exam of your feet if you have sores, or listen to your lungs if you are short of breath. Make sure when you schedule your appointment the office personnel know why you are being seen so that the right kind of visit can be scheduled.
- BE PREPARED.
Before signing on have all of your medications with you and write down changes in medications or changes in your symptoms. Ask if you need to find a way to weigh yourself or get your blood pressure checked. Ask if you need to get any lab work done before your appointment.
- TRACK AND REPORT YOUR BLOOD SUGAR.
If you have a blood sugar monitor that can send blood sugars electronically, send the readings at least several days before your appointment. You may need to ask for advice to get the data from your monitor uploaded. If you can’t send your blood sugar readings electronically, write down dates and times you tested your blood sugar. Show your written record at the time of your telehealth visit.
- TELEHEALTH IS NOT FOR EMERGENCIES.
Make a plan in advance about how to get care when you are sick, including urgent care for chest pain, very low blood sugars and so forth.
With planning and communication with your doctor’s office, telehealth may be a good option for part of your care even after the pandemic. More tips for using telehealth for diabetes care can be found the diaTribe Foundation, diatribe.org.
Betty M. Drees, MD, FACP, FACE is Professor of Medicine and Dean Emerita UMKC School of Medicine, Department of Internal Medicine, Department of Biomedical and Health Informatics.