Diabetes Awareness Month Underscores Benefits of Telehealth to Diabetes Care, Need for Congressional Action
During Diabetes Awareness Month this November, it is more important than ever to recognize the vast benefits that virtual care access brings patients with diabetes and their providers.
For those with chronic conditions such as diabetes, telehealth access is a lifeline. When a patient regularly needs to attend appointments and obtain medical advice, constant trips to a doctor’s office can completely alter their lifestyle choices. Diabetes patients are no exception, and with 37 million people in the U.S. living with type 2 diabetes, this problem is a pervasive issue when obtaining care.
Increased telehealth access has given diabetes patients more independence, higher quality of life and more control over their health. The quality of diabetes care has remained high and even improved, in fact, the American Diabetes Association found that telehealth promotes more patient-centered and individualized care among diabetes patients, and increases access to care by addressing provider shortages.
Telehealth provides time and cost-saving benefits, both for patients and providers. One study of 100 patients with diabetes found that access to telehealth resources saved patients more than 9,500 miles of driving in just six months. A study conducted at a Veterans Affairs telehealth clinic found that diabetic veterans who were using telehealth services saved 78 minutes of travel time each way by being able to take their appointments where it was most convenient for them; as a result, the VA saved $72.94 worth of travel costs per patient.
Providers support the use of telehealth too. In a recent survey conducted by the American Medical Association, providers cited telehealth use appropriate in the case of diabetes care. Physicians working with diabetes mellitus patients reported that virtual care can result in saved time, increased productivity and improved patient management.
Telehealth access for diabetes care can be especially important among marginalized groups, such as the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, who reported A1c reduction, weight loss and insulin use reduction after implementing the use of a telehealth program for one year. As a result, during this year the tribe was able to reduce diabetes-specific medication spending by 72 percent. Marginalized groups face an increased risk of diabetes, making it all the more important that safe, accessible and equitable health care access through telehealth protections are made permanent.
The U.S. House passed the Advancing Telehealth Beyond COVID–19 Act of 2022 (H.R. 4040) earlier this year with strong, bipartisan support, but the Senate has yet to act. The Senate must follow the House’s lead and provide permanent telehealth protections so that the millions of patients who rely on virtual care can continue to do so.
ABOUT TELEHEALTH ACCESS FOR AMERICA
Telehealth Access for America (TAFA) is a public education campaign supported by leaders in health care committed to better care, expanded patient choice, and protecting access to critical telehealth services. Learn more and take action today at www.telehealthaccessforamerica.org.