Use of Telemedicine in Gastroenterology, Diabetes and Kidney Diseases

Written by: Maliha Safilullah

Maliha Safiullah is a Former Correspondent for 60 Minutes, Channel Nine Australia and is a published writer having worked as a Feature Writer for Dawn News.

Remote Patient Monitoring systems have a multitude of benefits and considering the current COVID-19 situation, have become an absolute necessity for patients who require chronic disease management, post-discharge care or are older adults confined to home either due to old age or limitation in mobility. By establishing a connection with such patients, RPM systems have created a simple method for healthcare organizations to be constantly aware, in real-time, about high-risk patients by maintaining a track of data in between visits.

RPM systems offer patients the opportunity to understand and manage their own health conditions and encourage increased patient engagement while also delivering improved quality of care since it affords patients and healthcare provider access to pertinent real-time data, consequently enhancing quality and value-based care. This allows patients to not only be educated on their health and have daily feedback on their condition but also permits physicians to have excess time to treat more patients.

Read more on The Impact of Remote Patient Management Systems on Patient Behavior 

However, globally each year, healthcare systems encounter difficulties in utilizing their resources to treat more patients as the frequency and intensity of chronic diseases increases. More often than not, the quality of care is compromised and either a patient has to suffer through long waiting lines at a clinic or face constant delays in securing an appointment with a physician of his/her choice. Fortunately, technological advancement in healthcare have enabled remote patient monitoring systems offer solutions to the mounting requisite for healthcare efficiency in healthcare.

  • Managing Digestive Disease

Telemedicine in gastroenterology shows abundant prospects in enhancing digestive disease management. RPMs that support telemedicine gastroenterology for patients with chronic digestive diseases work with digestive disease specialists who can monitor medication routines and offer care for compliance or side-effects. Similar to patients with other chronic illnesses, patients with digestive diseases prove to have great non-adherence rates consequently resulting in increased healthcare expenditure and minimal recovery. By developing better compliance and continuous care, a RPM system can significantly improve the care management of patients with digestive diseases.

For patients suffering from any chronic digestive disease, RPM can prove to be most essential since the illnesses vary in intensity and duration by initially showing a cycle of troublesome symptoms and then periods of having no symptoms at all. This characterization of symptoms often results in patients requiring frequent visits to digestive disease consultants which can be both time-consuming and unfriendly on the pocket. RPM bridges this gap between visits allowing patients to correctly track their disease progress. Video conferencing with the desired physician allows for an ongoing patient counseling and accurately managing any subsequent complication that may occur.

RPM systems have offered solutions for patients suffering from Crohn’s Disease, Hepatitis C and even chronic Pancreatitis. For Crohn’s Disease, a digestive disease specialist would advise frequent follow-ups to monitor the patient’s blood counts along with renal and liver functions. Monitoring remotely, through video-conferencing, a telemedicine gastroenterologist will be able to identify the impact of corticosteroids and immuno-modulators on the patient and provide prompt adjustments to medication if there are side-effects. Similarly, a patient suffering from Hepatitis C may demonstrate side-effects and severe reactions to antiviral medications required to treat the illness but an RPM will ensure that any adverse outcome to treatment is immediately dealt with. Also, in the case of Chronic Pancreatitis, the specialist would prescribe pain medication coupled with enzyme supplements and dietary modifications which can all be monitored remotely through a competent RPM system.

  • Managing Diabetes

Diabetes is a predominant chronic disease that affects millions of people the world over. Mismanagement of diabetes results in a range of varied medical problems and once diagnosed, requires absolute discipline in routine and alteration in lifestyle. Remote diabetes monitoring allows continuous update on glucose levels and further provides diabetics with the assurance of their health condition.

Blood glucose tracking software lets a diabetic track glucose levels throughout the day and night. It takes measurements at fixed intervals and translates them into data, constructing glucose direction and rate of change. With access to this data, a patient is enabled with knowledge to manage his/her glucose levels more proactively. Additionally, the software may also provide insights into how meals, exercise, sleep and illnesses influence the patient’s glucose levels. Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) assists in better diabetes management since it provides essential data required to take crucial treatment decisions that aren’t reliant on only a single blood glucose test but on a culmination of tests that have been analyzed and stored as data over a longer period of time. This in turn may help reduce risks of hypoglycemia in patients irrespective of their use of insulin injections or pump therapy.

Diabetes remote monitoring can not only impact the glucose level and provide better quality of care to a patient but also function as a positive lifestyle change for a patient would have increased adherence to therapy when he/she is in control of his own health and the constant monitoring will result in an improved patient-provider relationship.

For management of type 2 diabetes, adherence to therapy and modifications in lifestyle are considered to be absolutely necessary. RPM functions to improve patient adherence in multiple ways:

  1. The system is convenient and easy to use, and lets patients easily report daily blood glucose readings.
  2. The healthcare provider will have a quicker response to an emergency situation when he has real-time data at hand.
  3. RPM establishes a constant contact between a patient and his/her physician, ensuring an increased level of trust.

Remote Patient Monitoring provides boundless possibilities to transform management of diabetes by enhancing both the efficiency and quality of care and improving the way treatment is offered to all patients who suffer from it. Furthermore, healthcare providers using the RPM technology will be in a position to increase access to care for more patients and will contribute to reduced healthcare costs.

  •  Managing Kidney Disease

Remote Patient Monitoring offers solutions to patients suffering from end-stage renal disease (ESRD) or those receiving dialysis at home by providing essential health assistance and ensuring the patients feel comfortable in their own setting. Since ESRD and home dialysis are rather expensive, RPM systems can possibly also reduce healthcare costs. Furthermore, with a remote kidney disease monitoring system in place, healthcare providers are in a better position to intervene promptly when required and revise the treatment the patient is receiving. It also facilitates patients who have restricted mobility or are troubled by travel costs by offering the option of video consultations that can radically increase patient’s independence at home.

For patients suffering from ESRD, remote patient monitoring provides a distinctive capacity for the use of home-based dialysis care. A RPM can facilitate patient education for renal failure opportunities for patients with ESRD and video-conferencing can enable physicians and other medical staff to be able to monitor patients throughout while concurrently providing feedback to guarantee that home dialysis therapies are done properly. Through the video conferencing platform, a patient can show drain bags or catheter exit site for a physician to review. This may lead to better care as the patient can avoid an onset of an infection while also ensuring the patient is adhering to the necessary care plan. With this method, RPM mediations present the potential to improve the outcomes of home dialysis.

Additionally, healthcare providers are in better positioned to intercept any medical emergency or complication that may lead to readmission at a medical facility. These RPM tools offer the added advantage of reducing costs linked with renal disease. By substantially reducing complication rates, RPMs can improve quality of care while significantly cutting down on medical expenses incurred when availing treatment for ESRD.