Implementation of telehealth support for patients with type 2 diabetes using insulin treatment: an exploratory study.
Turner J., Larsen M., Tarassenko L., Neil A., Farmer A.
BACKGROUND: Initiating and adjusting insulin treatment for people with type 2 diabetes (T2D) requires frequent clinician contacts both face-to-face and by telephone. We explored the use of a telehealth system to offer additional support to these patients. METHODS: Twenty-three patients with uncontrolled T2D were recruited from nine general practices to assess the feasibility and acceptability of telehealth monitoring and support for insulin initiation and adjustment. The intervention included a standard algorithm for self-titration of insulin dose, a Bluetooth enabled glucose meter linked to a mobile phone, an integrated diary to record insulin dose, feedback of charted blood glucose data and telehealth nurse review with telephone follow-up. Additional contact with patients was initiated when no readings were transmitted for >3 days or when persistent hyper- or hypoglycaemia was identified. Reponses of patients and clinicians to the system were assessed informally. RESULTS: The mean (SD) patient age was 58 years (12) with 78% male. The mean (SD) diabetes duration was 6.4 years (4.5), HbA1c at baseline was 9.5% (2.2), and the decrease in HbA1c at three months was 0.52% (0.91) with an insulin dose increase of 9 units (26). A mean (SD) of 160 (93) blood glucose readings was transmitted per patient in these three months. Practice nurses and general practitioners (GPs) viewed the technology as having the potential to improve patient care. Most patients were able to use the equipment with training and welcomed review of their blood glucose readings by a telehealth nurse. CONCLUSIONS: Although the concept of telehealth monitoring is unfamiliar to most patients and practice nurses, the technology improved the support available for T2D patients commencing insulin treatment.