A 45-year-old female with new onset Type 2 diabetes comes for an appointment at a health system’s primary care office or clinic. She has a Hemoglobin A1C of 15 percent—and she is having trouble managing it.
Her primary care provider prescribes Metformin and talks to her about needed dietary changes. But, after three months, her A1C level has increased to 20 percent. The patient says she is following dietary recommendations and taking her medications, but after further discussion, it’s clear she is still unsure about appropriate food choices.
On occasion, she also has skipped taking her long-acting insulin. Because she has had several episodes of low blood sugar in the middle of the night, her husband has had to give her glucose tabs to wake her up.
A referral to an endocrinologist — a specialist who can spend more time working with the patient, both on medication adherence and diet – would be beneficial. The problem, however, is that the nearest endocrinologist is 150 miles away, and the patient has neither the time nor the money to travel.
This is where TeleEndocrinology can help.
A national shortage of endocrinologists
Nationwide, there is a national shortage of specialists available to help support treatment for one of America’s most prevalent chronic diseases, diabetes.
More than 34 million Americans have diabetes, and roughly one out of every seven healthcare dollars is spent treating it and its complications, according to the American Diabetes Association,. Diabetes-related complications are increasing among adults, while the rate of new cases of diabetes among children and adolescents continues to grow.
Meanwhile, there is a national shortage of endocrinologists. In 2017, the endocrinologist workforce was estimated to include just 6,500 physicians, or nearly 1,500 below what is estimated to be sufficient to care for millions of patients with diabetes and other hormonal conditions, including thyroid disease, osteoporosis, hypogonadism, and pituitary and adrenal disorders.
This shortage equates to an average wait time of three to six months to get an appointment with an endocrinologist, with even longer waits predicted in the future.
Implementing a TeleEndocrinology program lessens the impact of the shortage by bringing the specialist to the patient and giving hospitals and clinics the ability to offer appointments based on the community’s needs. For example, the outpatient TeleEndocrinology clinic in one community might be offered two or three days a week. The endocrinologists working via telemedicine is freed up to care for patients in another community on the other days of the week.
Benefits of TeleEndocrinology
As with other specialties, bringing in endocrinologists via telemedicine can support patients in settings where they otherwise would not have access to that level of care.
By establishing a teleEndocrinology outpatient clinic, health systems can provide specialty care closer to patients’ homes, making it easier to access, increasing treatment plan compliance, and reducing the likelihood of hospitalization. An outpatient teleEndocrinology clinic can also help with care continuity as patients discharged from inpatient settings are seen in the outpatient clinic for timely and regular follow-up.
The benefits of an outpatient TeleEndocrinology program are many – for patients and health systems. For more about how SOC Telemed works with hospitals and clinics to build custom programs, contact us today.