Diabetes and COVID-19: Staying on Target With Telemedicine

If you have diabetes, getting to the doctor’s office may be a challenge during the coronavirus pandemic. Having diabetes can weaken your immune system. That can make serious complications more likely if you get sick from infections like COVID-19.

Telemedicine is a great way to limit your risk while keeping up with your health care.

What Is Telemedicine?

Also called telehealth or e-health, telemedicine lets people interact with their health care teams using a computer, tablet, or smartphone.

You can meet with your health care team by video chat or phone just like you would for an appointment. You can talk about things like:

  • Your blood sugar
  • Any changes to your symptoms
  • Any questions about medication

Online patient portals are available for you to:

  • Schedule appointments
  • See test results
  • Request medication refills
  • Email your doctor

You can also use your mobile phone or tablet to keep track of your blood sugar and then send the information to your doctor. These devices can also:

  • Keep track of your diet and exercise, then, through an app, estimate how much insulin you need
  • Give you email or text reminders when you have appointments or need to refill medications

How You Can Prepare for Your Appointment

When you call your doctor's office or use their website to make your appointment, make sure it’s OK to have a telemedicine visit. Many doctors use telehealth for follow-up appointments. Some cases and most new people need to have appointments in person.

If telemedicine is the right choice for you, there are some things you can do get the most out of your virtual visit:

Know your technology. Check the camera and sound on your computer, phone, or tablet to make sure that you can see and hear people and that the person you're meeting with can see and hear you. A friend can be your tester. Also:

  • Be sure you have access to the program your doctor wants you to use for the call. Your doctor's office can help with this.
  • Have your device charged or plugged in, and make sure that you have a quiet, well-lit spot for the visit.
  • Ask family members not to interrupt you.
  • Use the spot in your house where your Wi-Fi is the strongest or that you have the best cellphone service. This will give your audio and video the best quality.

Call your insurance to see if telemedicine is covered. If it is, ask if your co-pay will be the same. If it isn’t, ask your doctor what your cost would be.

Plan for your virtual visit just like you would for an in-person doctor appointment. Write down any symptoms or questions you want to ask. Have your medicines nearby, and upload your glucose numbers or any other data before you start.

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During and After Your Appointment

There are a couple of important things that you should do while your appointment is going on and after it's over.

Take notes. You won’t get a printout of directions or a physical prescription after your visit. But you may be able to print these out. This depends on the telemedicine program used by your doctor. You can also write down any directions from your doctor so you’ll remember them. If you have questions later, you can email them through the patient portal.

Also know that your doctor can send your prescriptions directly to your pharmacy through their telemedicine program.

Give feedback. After your visit, you might get a follow-up call asking how it went. Let your team know if things went well and if there’s anything that can make it easier for future visits.

When Telemedicine Isn’t the Answer

Sometimes, your doctor might want to see you in the office. Maybe you need blood tests or it's your first visit to the office. Your doctor might want to see you if you have certain symptoms or if they feel they need to examine you in person.

In those cases, be sure to take extra precautions. Your doctor’s office will likely have chairs spaced farther apart, will probably ask you to wear a cloth mask, and will take your temperature when you arrive. Try not to touch any surfaces when you are there, and keep your hands away from your mouth, eyes, and nose. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer as soon as you leave the office.

WebMD Medical Reference Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on July 22, 2020

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “People of Any Age with Underlying Medical Conditions,” “Using Telehealth to Expand Access to Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic,” “Get Your Clinic Ready for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19)," “How to Protect Yourself & Others.”

Mayo Clinic: “Telehealth: Technology meets health care.”

Harvard Health Publishing: “Can telehealth help flatten the curve of COVID-19?”

Diabetes Technology and Therapeutics: “Top 10 Tips for Successfully Implementing a Diabetes Telehealth Program.”

Mount Sinai: “Diabetes Telemedicine Appointments.”

University of Southern California: “Five tips to prepare for your first telemedicine visit.”

© 2020 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.

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