A recent study has found that telehealth can increase the frequency of visits among adolescents and young adults (AYAs) with type 1 diabetes. This research has important implications for healthcare providers and patients alike, as telehealth is becoming an increasingly popular way to deliver medical care.
In 2019, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported that approximtely 29% of people of all ages, equivalent to 9% of the US population, had received a diabetes diagnosis. During the same year, 283,000 individuals under the age of 20 were diagnosed with diabetes, with 244,000 having type 1 diabetes. Telehealth has a number of benefits for patients, especially AYAs with type 1 diabetes. With telehealth, patients can receive care from the comfort of their own homes, reducing the burden of travel and potentially leading to better health outcomes. This is particularly important for AYAs who may be balancing school or work commitments alongside their medical care.
In the study, researchers conducted an evaluation of a modified version of the Colorado Young Adults with T1D (CoYoT1) Care model for a 15-month period. This model incorporated person-centered care, virtual peer groups, and training for physicians via telehealth. The study partially randomized adolescents and young adults aged 16-25 years to receive either CoYoT1 or traditional care, either via telehealth or in-person.
The results of this study indicate that adolescents and young adults (AYAs) who primarily engaged in telehealth for diabetes clinic visits completed more visits than those who attended primarily in-person, with the former completing 3.3 visits and the latter 2.5 visits. This finding suggests the potential benefits of telehealth in terms of increasing clinic attendance and improving patient engagement.
The study’s authors also found that young adults who largely used telehealth for their medical visits experienced no increase in physician-related distress. In contrast, those who attended more in-person doctor’s appointments reported an increase in physician-related distress.This finding shows the potential of telehealth to lower physician-related distress and improve patient outcomes. This is particularly important for adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes who face physiological changes, psychosocial challenges, and increasing independence. These factors can increase diabetes distress and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c).
Despite its findings, the study’s authors did note that alternative care models, like telehealth, that engage AYAs and improve diabetes-related health outcomes are needed to manage the challenges that come with T1D management for AYAs.
The researchers suggested that healthcare providers who plan to incorporate telehealth into their practice should be ready to adapt to new technologies and care models. The CoYoT1 Care model provides a valuable framework for delivering telehealth to adolescents and young adults with type 1 diabetes, with the potential to increase patient engagement, reduce physician-related distress, and improve health outcomes. The study demonstrates that telehealth is a promising tool that can transform medical care for the better, and both providers and patients should be aware of its potential.