Taking Control of Diabetes just got Easier with Telemedicine

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many doctors started providing care via telemedicine. Now, patients with diabetes can easily reach out to their doctors to help manage their condition with the help of virtual consultations.

Dr. Aurora Macaballug is Board Member and Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (PSEDM)

According to Dr. Aurora Macaballug, Board Member and Chair of the Advocacy Committee of the Philippine Society of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism (PSEDM), the improved patient adherence is a product of improved access to doctors. Patient adherence refers to a patient’s willingness to correctly follow medical prescription for the benefit of his or her own health.

“When we thought of digital technology in the healthcare sector pre-pandemic, we probably thought of electronic records management,” she said. “But now, digital technology has expanded its role and function in our practice. We are able to extend our clinic hours and reach patients who can’t go physically to the clinic, and of course patients are able to search for us online as well.”

Patient Adherence Powered by Convenience

Diabetes is a chronic and lifetime disease. Taking control of the disease is largely dependent on the patient’s adherence to their medications and their doctor’s advice. According to PSEDM, having a balanced diet, exercise, timely medication, and regular check-ups—will increase the chances of patients getting their diabetes under control.

“Because of the convenience of telemedicine, we’ve seen notable improvements in patient adherence,” said Dr. Macaballug. She highlights four key benefits of telemedicine that promote patient adherence:

  1. Easy access to doctors. Proximity is no longer a barrier when it comes to seeing a doctor. Telemedicine has effectively expanded the doctor-patient communication where a doctor from Visayas can connect with a patient from Luzon.
  2. Time saved. No more waiting for clinic days, and no more commuting through heavy traffic just to get a check-up.
  3. Quick and timely access to reliable information. Most patients turn to Google for on-demand medical advice. Telemedicine almost duplicates that experience and makes it better, allowing for patient-specific and reliable medical advice.
  4. Quicker feedback loop. Whether it’s for e-prescriptions, or to ask questions, the patients can talk to and hear from doctors more easily. It has become our new clinic.

Dr. Macaballug is quick to caution however that telemedicine should not be a replacement for physical consultation but rather, a supplement. “For people with diabetes, if their sugar is very stable, they can get consultations online,” she said. “But in cases that are alarming, kung namamanhid, masikip ang dibdib, o kaya may sugat (numbness, tightness in the chest, or a wound), that would require us to physically see the patient.”

Beyond Telemedicine

Diabetes requires lifestyle changes to manage and control it. That is why education will continue to play a significant role in helping patients and their caregivers manage diabetes.

Patients will more likely follow prescribed treatment consistently when they understand their condition and take responsibility for their disease.

“The beauty of telemedicine is that it goes beyond outpatient department consultations,” said Dr. Macaballug. “It’s also for education. We used to have physical lay forums for these activities. Because of the pandemic, we transitioned to lay webinars.”

This article is part of a series of informative pieces from Kontrolado Ko, Diabetes Ko, an awareness campaign by MSD in the Philippines that advocates patient adherence to medication and treatment among people with diabetes in the Philippines.

The goal of the campaign is to raise awareness among people with diabetes about the importance of making impactful changes to one’s own lifestyle to manage diabetes, and that taking medication as prescribed by their doctors is a vital first step toward better health outcomes.

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