Telehealth improves home management of chronic disease

A pair of separate studies recently published out of northern Canada and Taiwan indicate that telehealth is an effective tool in self-management of chronic disease, including diabetes.

The study from Taiwan, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, focused on diabetes self-management. Results indicated "sophisticated technological design" improved five of seven self-care behaviors, resulting in better blood glucose control and glycemic control. While improved self-care resulted in better outcomes, the "changes in behavior required time to show effects," researchers found.

The 18-month study included the use of a third-generation mobile telecommunications glucometer, an online diabetes self-management system and a teleconsultant service. The five behaviors showing significant improvement among the telehealth patients were being active, healthy eating, taking medication, healthy coping and problem-solving.

Elderly patients experienced problems with the technology, according to the study, but worked with coordinators through telephone communication.

The second study, published in the December issue of Telemedicine and e-Health, found that patients had positive experiences with telehealth chronic disease self-management programs, and that such programs were an effective option to improve health access to geographically isolated communities.

In particular, the study found significant improvements in self-efficacy, exercise behavior, cognitive symptom management, communication with physicians, role function, psychological well-being, energy, health distress and self-rated health.

Patients in the study had chronic lung or heart disease, arthritis, or had suffered a stroke.

The study determined that patients found support from technology-enabled groups formed either at their location or by linking up small groups from several sites, and were more likely to successfully self-manage their conditions because of that support. Participants also said they would have liked longer group sessions.

Another recent study, published in the journal Neurology: Clinical Practice, showed that telemedicine helps patients with Parkinson's disease better manage symptoms of their disease. The study's authors said that their telehealth approach also could work for management of chronic conditions including autism, Alzheimer's disease, diabetes and congestive heart failure.

Meanwhile, a research trial in Germany indicated that automatic wireless monitoring is an effective way to monitor chronic heart-failure patients at home and improve care.

For more information:
- read the diabetes study
- here's the chronic disease study