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Diabetes Management and Telemedicine at Home

Telemedicine holds untold potential for chronic disease management, but one of the largest areas of impact will likely be for diabetes management. According to the U.S. Pharmacopeia Medication Errors Reporting Program, roughly half of all drug errors involve insulin. Furthermore, studies reveal that more than 97% of insulin overdoses occur at home, and only 60% of patients with type 2 diabetes follow their prescribed medication regimen—many fearing an overdosage. These mishaps can lead to adverse drug events, hospitalizations, and staggering costs, all of which could be reduced by using the feedback mechanism made possible by using telemedicine at home.

Telemedicine tools in the home care setting can create a real-time feedback loop that empowers patients to follow their treatment plans properly and holds patients accountable to their pharmacists. By using devices that measure glucose levels, insulin doses, and adherence rates, patients can more successfully self-manage their condition and become more engaged in their own care. This same data is also relayed to pharmacists, who can intervene more quickly via telepharmacy to influence behavior change or to adjust insulin dosages as needed to maintain healthy A1c levels.

Effective diabetes management involves frequent calculations of insulin dosage based on current blood sugar, time of day, food to be consumed, and/or activity performed. A poor calculation could result in further deterioration (hyperglycemia) or an adverse drug event (in this case, hypoglycemia). It’s a weighty task for the average person; up to half of patients forget the instructions they receive.

On the other hand, if a patient can remain connected with a clinical pharmacist, the pharmacist can easily compute the correct insulin dose. This is where telemedicine comes in: The telemedicine devices provide a method for transmitting real-time data from the patient to the pharmacist, who can then calculate and communicate the right dosage back to the patient in an instant. Patients are no longer left floundering alone to muddle through the confusion of insulin calculations, but instead enjoy the certainty of a professional assessment. Thus, patients become more likely to adhere to medication instructions.

Taking medications as directed is just as important to a patient’s overall health as the care he/she receives from the provider. If expanding telemedicine at home beyond the physician-patient relationship to pharmacists can help improve adherence, reduce adverse drug events, decrease hospitalizations, and reduce costs, then it’s a worthy use of telemedicine indeed.

To learn more about telepharmacy for diabetes, visit ModernMedicine here.

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