The empirical evidence for the telemedicine intervention in diabetes management
OBJECTIVE: The research presented here assesses the scientific evidence for the telemedicine intervention in the management of diabetes (telediabetes), gestational diabetes, and diabetic retinopathy. The impetus derives from the confluence of high prevalence of these diseases, increasing incidence, and rising costs, while telemedicine promises to ameliorate, if not prevent, type 2 diabetes and its complications.
MATERIALS AND METHODS: A purposeful review of the literature identified relevant publications from January 2005 to December 2013. These were culled to retain only credible research articles for detailed review and analysis. The search yielded approximately 17,000 articles with no date constraints. Of these, 770 appeared to be research articles within our time frame. A review of the abstracts yielded 73 articles that met the criteria for inclusion in the final analysis. Evidence is organized by research findings regarding feasibility/acceptance, intermediate outcomes (e.g., use of service, and screening compliance), and health outcomes (control of glycemic level, lipids, body weight, and physical activity.)
RESULTS: Definitions of telediabetes varied from study to study vis-à-vis diabetes subtype, setting, technology, staffing, duration, frequency, and target population. Outcome measures also varied. Despite these vagaries, sufficient evidence was obtained from a wide variety of research studies, consistently pointing to positive effects of telemonitoring and telescreening in terms of glycemic control, reduced body weight, and increased physical exercise. The major contributions point to telemedicine's potential for changing behaviors important to diabetes control and prevention, especially type 2 and gestational diabetes. Similarly, screening and monitoring for retinopathy can detect symptoms early that may be controlled or treated.
CONCLUSIONS: Overall, there is strong and consistent evidence of improved glycemic control among persons with type 2 and gestational diabetes as well as effective screening and monitoring of diabetic retinopathy.
CITATION: Bashshur RL, Shannon GW, Smith BR, Woodward MA. The empirical evidence for the telemedicine intervention in diabetes management. Telemed J E-Health Off J Am Telemed Assoc 2015;21(5):321–54.