Background: Patients with insulin dependent diabetes require frequent advice if their metabolic control is not optimal. This study focuses on the fiscal and administrative aspects of telemanagement, which was used to establish a supervised autonomy of patients on intensified insulin therapy.
Methods: A prospective, randomised trial with 43 patients on intensified insulin therapy was conducted. Travelling distance to the diabetes centre was 50 min one way; all patients had undergone a diabetes education course with lessons in dose adaptation. Patients were randomly assigned to telecare (n=27) or conventional care (n=16). They used BG-meters with a storage capacity of 120 values (Precision QID Abbott/Medisense) and transmitted their data over a combined modem/interface via telephone line to the diabetes centre. Data were displayed and stored by a customised software (Precision Link Plus, Abbott/Medisense). Advice for proper dose adjustment was given by telephone.
Results: Average time needed for instruction in the telemedical system was 15 min. Data were transmitted every 1-3 weeks and a teleconsultation was performed by phone every 2-4 weeks, depending on the extent of specific problems. On average, personal visits in the control group were performed once a month. Physician's time expenditure for telemanagement, compared to conventional advice was moderately higher (50 vs. 42 min per month). A substantial amount of time on the patients side could be saved through replacing personal communications by telephone contacts and data transmission reduction (96 vs. 163 min/month including data transmission time). Setting up an optimal telemanagement scenario, a cost analysis was carried out yielding savings of approximately 650 euro per year per patient. HbA(1c) dropped significantly from 8.2 to 7.0% after 8 months of observation, but there was no significant difference between the intervention and control groups. Major technical problems with the telematic system did not occur during the study.
Conclusions: Telemanagement of insulin-requiring diabetic patients is a cost and time saving procedure for the patients and results in metabolic control comparable to conventional outpatient management.