Telemedicine in Diabetes: How Virtual Care Is Changing Diabetes Management in the UK
Time to read 8 min
Time to read 8 min
Thanks to advances in telemedicine, diabetes patients no longer need to rely on in-person visits and can instead opt for digital alternatives.
With more than 4.3 million people in the UK living with diabetes mellitus, adopting a digital approach seems sensible. Telecare can expedite processes for you as a patient and your medical team. The right technologies may even improve the treatment’s cost-effectiveness.
This article provides insight into telemedicine and how it benefits diabetes care. It also covers how the NHS uses telemedicine and its future plans.
Telemedicine in clinical practice and diabetes mellitus care refers to using technology and remote communication tools to support patients. It includes services that allow healthcare professionals to monitor and manage those with diabetes without in-person visits.
The use of telemedicine in diabetes care includes:
Patients who do use telemedicine may only try some types. However, according to a study published in the BMJ, you may have a positive experience if you do use it.
Telemedicine makes it easier to connect with healthcare providers, giving you the chance to feel more support as you manage your condition.
Before the widespread use of telemedicine, diabetes patients faced several challenges in accessing excellent care. For example, blood glucose monitoring made efficient disease management challenging because of the possibility of inaccurate tests and the need for in-person appointments. Similarly, education and support were limited, forcing patients to rely on trial and error to manage their conditions.
Today, modern advancements in diabetes telemedicine make disease management smoother. Everything from glycemic control to handling diabetic retinopathy can benefit from a technological edge.
Glycemic control is a challenging aspect, though the extent of it can depend on whether you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes or how you manage your condition.
Individuals with type 1 diabetes are entirely dependent on insulin therapy to maintain glycemic control. They need to balance their insulin doses with dietary choices and physical activity to avoid errors. Even small ones may lead to hypoglycemia or, more rarely, hyperglycemia.
Persons who suffer from type 2 diabetes often have significant comorbidities, including high blood pressure and vascular disease. Therefore, they face the challenge of managing their diabetes alongside other conditions.
Telemedicine makes glycemic control easier regardless of your diabetes type. It achieves this through:
According to one meta-analysis, using telecare monitoring results in better glycemic control than relying on routine follow-up. The NHS offers certain types of digital monitoring to many people with diabetes.
Education in diabetes care is a huge topic amongst NHS care providers. The NHS Long Term Plan offers free healthy living resources to those with type 2 diabetes. It also provides structured education to those with type 1 diabetes, including the MyType1 Diabetes resource and the DigiBete app for children and young people.
Digital education is important for several reasons:
Few areas demonstrate the importance of telemedicine than the management of those living in rural locations. NHS England acknowledges that telemedicine features such as video consultations may reduce wait times in rural areas.
Access to specialist health services is sometimes challenging in rural areas, but diabetes telemedicine can change that through:
One study demonstrates just how effective telemedicine is in treating rural populations. It reveals that telemedicine reduces costs, increases appointment attendance, and improves patient satisfaction.
The digital management of diabetes medication refers to the use of software and technology to help individuals manage their medications. Taking a digital approach makes it easier to streamline medication management by:
The Professional Records Standard Body (PRSB) focuses on increasing the digital tools for managing diabetes records. Thanks to organizations like PRSB, more people now have access to tools that make it easier to manage diabetes records.
Both type 1 and type 2 diabetes may result in complications. Around 10% of diabetes patients develop a foot ulcer at some point in their lives, and roughly 7000 diabetes-related amputations occur in the UK every year.
Much of the UK's ulcer management takes place in community healthcare settings, with specialist nurses leading patient care. While community health interventions are already more convenient than attending a hospital, there are ways telemedicine makes improvements:
Of course, foot ulcers aren't the only complication that benefits from telemedicine. But they do stand as a good example of how life-altering telecare may benefit you when used appropriately.
Digital diabetes education resources must meet National Institute of Clinical Excellence (NICE) guidelines. In the future, more courses should receive approval once they meet NICE guidelines.
In the future, courses may be more likely to reflect each patient's wishes or background. As an example, Desmond BME offers courses specific to South Asian individuals, including guidance on diabetes management during Ramadan.
Patients with an initial type 2 diabetes diagnosis may benefit from a low-calorie diet. Evidence shows that calorie restriction can push some patients into remission.
In 2020, the NHS introduced a 'soups and shakes' program in some areas of England. The daily calorie intake when following this program is around 800-1000. Patients accessing the program can receive support in face-to-face or digital settings, which makes the diet easier to use for those with busy lifestyles and those who don't live near groups.
Eventually, the NHS will roll out the program to all trusts in England. This should offer some hope to those in the earlier phases of type 2 diabetes who want to enter remission. The program may act as a template for similar services in diabetes care.
Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) can act as a lifeline for patients with diabetes. Although it is available in much of England and Wales, access varies in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Advocacy groups such as JDRF focus on improving CGM access across the UK. With their efforts, patients of all ages and backgrounds may benefit from CGM regardless of their location.
Telemedicine offers multiple ways to streamline services and improve patient outcomes. Services such as CGM, digital education, and digital support for those following certain treatment programs result in patient-centred care that's effective.
While such services vary across the UK, more are in development. If you want to benefit from such services, consulting with your GP or diabetes nurse can help you access what's available in your area.
Needleless injections also have the potential to enhance your diabetes care. You can manage your condition in a way that's comfortable for you, even if you have a phobia of needles. Check out our needle-free solution to insulin therapy.
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