JDRF has today published a policy position on telemedicine and virtual healthcare appointments, which have seen a significant increase in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
The rapid shift to telephone, online and virtual appointments has had a considerable impact on how people with type 1 diabetes access ongoing treatment and care, with face-to-face appointments being limited or cancelled.
The statement sets out JDRF’s position and makes recommendations for how continued use of telemedicine must work to provide all people with type 1 diabetes with consistent and effective access to the healthcare they need.
The benefits of telemedicine
The increase in telephone appointments and virtual clinics has been positively received by the type 1 diabetes community. A recent global survey of more than 7,000 people with type 1 diabetes from 89 countries showed that three quarters of respondents would continue to use telemedicine after the pandemic.
People with type 1 diabetes have reported having more time with clinicians during telephone and virtual appointments. JDRF has previously called for longer appointments to help encourage uptake of type 1 treatment technologies in its Pathway to Choice report from earlier this year.
Telemedicine may also increase interactions between patients and clinicians between appointments, a development which can contribute to improved health outcomes.
People with type 1 also reported benefits including feeling more comfortable in their own homes, being able to involve family members in their appointments and overcoming travel and mobility issues.
More evidence needed
Although initial insights are encouraging, JDRF is calling for more evidence to establish and roll out best practice and identify any potential pitfalls of telemedicine. Further investigation is needed into whether telemedicine can effectively identify diabetes complications, eating disorders and mental health issues. There is a need to understand any potential barriers that might prevent people – particularly from lower socioeconomic groups – from accessing telemedicine, such as poor internet connectivity or lack of IT equipment and skills.
JDRF recommends a blended approach which offers patients a choice of telephone, virtual and face to face appointments. We recommend that people with type 1 are given support on how to use technology to manage their data and healthcare appointments.
Rachael Chrisp, Policy and Public Affairs Manager at JDRF, says: “The increased use of telemedicine and virtual clinics this year has led to many benefits, though inevitably some challenges as well. We would like to see a blended approach adopted towards virtual appointments, giving people with type 1 diabetes the option to meet with their clinician how best suits them. Encouragingly, recent research recognises the benefits of virtual appointments and we would like to see best practice examples rolled out across the NHS.”
Access to type 1 diabetes technology
JDRF has also updated its position on access to type 1 technology, calling for type 1 diabetes technology to be available for everyone with type 1 diabetes who wants and needs to use it. JDRF is calling for all NHS Clinical Commissioning Groups to follow national guidelines on type 1 technology provision and do more to reach people with type 1 diabetes from lower socio-economic groups. The charity’s position paper also recommends that all healthcare professionals working with type 1 diabetes patients receive mandatory training on available technologies to enable them to give appropriate advice, as well as offering more time in appointments.
Find out more about Pathway to Choice.