Diabetes telehealth visits have been happening for a while, but there’s no doubt that the delivery of medical care has been transformed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Medical offices have opened up virtual visits as part of their normal operations, remote monitoring methods have been clarified, and restrictions on reimbursement for these services have been loosened.
It’s a new day in healthcare.
Many physicians and medical providers now embrace telehealth, but what can you do as a patient to make the most of your diabetes telehealth visit?
What challenges can you expect? What are some advantages being experienced? Are there any times that diabetes telehealth is NOT recommended?
Disadvantages of telehealth
Missing out on in-person real-life contact could have some drawbacks. If it’s been close to a year since you were seen by your physician in person, a physical exam might be due. Specifically related to diabetes, an annual foot exam can’t be performed virtually. For clinics that offer retinal photography for the yearly eye exam, you would miss out on the chance to take care of that if you aren’t there in person.
If there’s not a way to check vital signs in your home (no blood pressure cuff or scale), your provider won’t have these essential markers of health when making medical decisions.
Undoubtedly, facial expressions, body language, and the natural flow of conversation will be different when interacting through a screen. While not critical for effective communication, they add an element of connectedness when information is shared. And let’s face it, during a pandemic, we may just desire any level of “normal” that can be attained.
Benefits of diabetes telehealth
Transportation is not always easy, and the time saved not traveling to a medical office and then waiting in the exam room are huge marks in the column of convenience. The ability to make a visit happen from virtually anywhere with a solid internet connection is a huge plus. Out of town on the day of your visit? Usually not a problem. Remote access to healthcare and getting medical advice when you need it can be extremely valuable.
There’s also a benefit in what you’re avoiding. The COVID pandemic has increased our awareness of the reality of catching a virus in your physician’s office, particularly from asymptomatic carriers. Whether a person with diabetes is at greater risk of COVID and whether they would experience greater complications depends on a variety of factors, anytime we can reduce the risk of exposure to a virus, it is advisable to do so.
Regardless of your feelings about telehealth, the reality of virtual visits is that they are here to stay and will continue to be offered by medical practices going forward.
Here are some tips to maximize the experience.
What to do before your visit
Just like in-person medical visits, being prepared goes a long way toward getting value from the time spent with your physician or another medical provider. Before the visit, consider doing these important tasks.
- Complete any consent forms, waivers, or documents that the medical office needs. Some electronic health records (EHRs) let you update your medication list and share other important information directly through the patient portal. Get all of that done well in advance of your visit, so you won’t be scrambling around when you’re ready to be seen.
- If you are due for diabetes-related labwork, getting it done a few days before your visit will ensure that your healthcare team has time to receive the information and look over it before your scheduled time together. In the diabetes world, an A1C that is 6 months old isn’t relevant. With recent lab info, your medical team will be better able to evaluate your current health status during your visit and make treatment recommendations based on the most up to date information. Many practices can order labs well in advance so that you can drop by the lab at your convenience to get them drawn.
- Gather diabetes data. If you share CGM or blood sugar data with your physician remotely, go ahead and send it. If you track things on paper, locate your blood sugar or blood pressure log. If you’re on an insulin pump, download the data and send it to your provider’s office. Don’t know how to do this? The pump companies are available to help you with this task.
- Make sure your medication list reflects what you are actually taking, including over-the-counter medications. If you’ve been keeping a food log or tracking exercise and sleep, pull out the information for quick reference.
- Think through and write down any problems you’ve experienced or questions you have about your health. It’s common to forget to ask things during your time with a physician, so a little bit of planning will be beneficial.
During your diabetes telehealth visit
Common sense prevails here, but these are some things easily overlooked.
- Choose a place that is quiet, private, and has a strong wifi connection before you log on. Distractions are all around us, and it’s best to minimize those so that you can focus in and listen closely to the advice and recommendations of your physician. There’s nothing more frustrating than technology fails or dropped call to ruin the flow of a medical visit. Do not, I repeat, do not try to have a diabetes telehealth visit while driving!
- Check your vital signs just before the visit. Current blood pressure and weight are things that are recorded at every medical visit. If you have the tools to do this at home, you’ll be contributing to a better quality of care.
- Keep your medication list with you so that you can make notes on any changes. If another physician has added or changed a medication, be sure to mention that early in the visit.
- Make notes on any changes you need to make as a result of the visit. You may get an email message summarizing the new medical plans, but it’s still a good idea to take your own notes and clarify any questions about medication updates, changes to glucose monitoring practices or the need to make appointments with other health care providers. It’s also a good idea to write down when you should be seen again so that you know when to expect the next appointment.
Your healthcare team always wants to deliver the best possible care to you. When it’s too risky for you to be seen in the office or when the benefits of a virtual visit outweigh the reasons for an in-person visit, give diabetes telehealth a try. If you have fear of the technology, most healthcare providers can help you overcome that hurdle.
Share your experience with diabetes telehealth. What other items would you add to the list of benefits? What have you found that makes a telehealth visit even better?
Want some quick and easy diabetes-friendly snacks?
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