Telehealth appointments for diabetes, also called telemedicine and virtual doctor visits, bring people with diabetes and their providers together electronically, via phone call, text message, or most commonly, video chat. Research shows telehealth helps those with diabetes communicate with their doctors more often, receive more timely education and treatment plan adjustments, feel more empowered in caring for themselves, and keep their blood glucose levels in good control.
Telehealth involves a virtual doctor visit with an endocrinologist (a specialist in hormones, including insulin), primary health care provider, or other member of your healthcare team such as a certified diabetes educator or nephrologist (a specialist in kidney disease).
These visits usually take place through online video but may also be supported by phone, text, and email communications. For example, you may be able to text your blood glucose levels to your healthcare team, access urine test results online, or ask questions by email. Forms and reminders are often automated for you as part of the digital process. Some providers use detailed forms to collect extensive data from individuals to inform decision-making and better personalize care.
Your doctor can perform many of the same aspects of a physical examination as would be done face to face, such as inspecting your feet for swelling or ulcers or scanning your eyes for signs of diabetic retinopathy, which can lead to vision loss.
Telemonitoring involves having physical health monitoring equipment in your home that can send data directly to your healthcare team. It can include devices to measure:
Some systems can also flag signs of a worsening condition and send alerts. If your doctor orders home monitoring equipment, you’ll receive instructions for how to use it properly.
One thing that tends to be different in a telehealth appointment is the ending. Your doctor won’t be able to hand you a printed summary of the visit and handwritten prescriptions like you may be used to, and you won’t be able to stop by the reception desk to make the next appointment. Make sure you understand your provider’s electronic equivalents of these steps. And always have pen and paper handy to keep notes.
As the use of telehealth has grown, so have the opportunities and insurance coverage. Talk with your primary care provider or endocrinologist about what telehealth can offer you.