Studies offer mixed grades for remote diabetes care

Of late there's been much talk about managing chronic illnesses effectively through the use of telemedicine technology. While most data seems to suggest that this approach has a lot of potential, the devil's in the details, a point which was underscored this week by two new studies examining remote diabetes care.

The studies, both of which were published in the American Diabetes Association journal Diabetes Care, draw differing conclusions on how valuable remote management of diabetes can be.

One study, conducted by Mathematica Policy Research on behalf of CMS, looked at a telemedicine project caring for 2,169 medically undeserved patients with type 2 diabetes between 2000 and 2007. The project gave patients home communications equipment, televisits with providers, nurse care management and education. Clinical outcomes did improve slightly, but costs were $8,000 per patient per year, much more than for the control group.

The other study looked at a much different model, in which 2,924 adult diabetics at Group Health Cooperative used electronic messaging to communicate with providers over a 15-month period between January 2004 and March 2005. Researchers found that while patients using electronic messaging often were more likely to have their blood glucose levels under control, they were also prone to having higher rates of outpatient visits.

To learn more about these studies:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece (reg. req.)

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