Background: Veterans with type 1 diabetes who live in rural Alabama and Georgia face barriers to receiving specialty diabetes care because of a lack of endocrinologists in the Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System. Telemedicine is a promising solution to help increase access to needed health care. We evaluated telemedicine's effectiveness in delivering endocrinology care from Atlanta-based endocrinologists.
Methods: We conducted a retrospective chart review of patients who were enrolled in the Atlanta VAMC Endocrinology Telehealth Clinic from June 2014 to October 2016. Outcomes of interest were hemoglobin A1c levels, changes in glycemic control, time savings for patients, cost savings for the US Veterans Health Administration, appointment adherence rates, and patient satisfaction with telehealth.
Results: Thirty-two patients with type 1 diabetes received telehealth care and in general received the recommended processes of diabetes care. Patients trended toward a decrease in mean hemoglobin A1c and glucose variability and a nonsignificant increase in hypoglycemic episodes. Patients saved 78 minutes of travel time (one way), and the VA saved $72.94 in travel reimbursements per patient visit. Patients adhered to 88% of scheduled telehealth appointments on average, and 100% of surveyed patients stated they would recommend telehealth to other veterans.
Conclusions: Specialty diabetes care delivered via telemedicine was safe and was associated with time savings, cost savings, high appointment adherence rates, and high patient satisfaction. Our findings support growing evidence that telemedicine is an effective alternative method of health care delivery.