Patients give a thumbs-up to videoconferencing for COPD, diabetes education

Participants in a Norwegian study on patient education for COPD and diabetes through videoconferencing gave the program high marks, according to a study in BMC Medical Informatics and Decision Making.

The number of participants was small--five in each group--for the six-week trials. The content was based on multidisciplinary outpatient programs offered at the University Hospital of North Norway, but delivered through each patient's home television, which was connected to a computer and a remote.

A staff member met patients in their homes at the beginning to help them set up the equipment and to explain the program.

The patients with severe chronic obstructive pulmonary disease were on oxygen and had difficulty traveling to participate in the programs onsite. By offering the programs in their homes, they were spared travel and could conserve their energy, yet still share experiences and learn from questions raised by others. Though they had to learn how to take turns speaking using the technology, they enjoyed the social aspects of the program, the authors said. None of the participants dropped out or objected to the duration of the program.

For them, the program consisted of educational videos, group education and exercise under the guidance of a physiotherapist, and a digital diary that served as the basis for individual consultations. 

Participants commented on the importance of learning from each other and said the experience was similar to attending a class onsite.

Though an estimated 1.8 million people globally are expected to be treated by telehealth by 2017, a British study recently concluded that it wasn't that effective for patients with COPD, diabetes or hear failure over the course of a year. It said that when compared with similar patients who did not use telehealth, there were no significant improvements in reported quality of life or anxiety or depression symptoms. Readers of the FierceHealthIT post on that study, however, pointed out that it did not focus on improved medical outcomes, such as avoiding hospitalization.

A study on telehealth from the Western New York Beacon Community last summer, however, did find success among diabetic patients in preventing emergency room visits and readmissions.

To learn more:
- find the study


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