Telehealth’s integral role in diabetes management

More than 29 million Americans have diabetes and as many as 86 million have pre-diabetes, putting them at serious risk for developing the condition. To complicate matters, people who have diabetes are twice as likely to be diagnosed with depression, which can drastically impact a patient's ability to effectively self-manage and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

To date, behavioral health has had some integration into the treatment of chronic care. However, changing individual behavior is increasingly at the heart of healthcare. There is an evolving shift from treating chronic conditions in a reactionary manner that focuses on post diagnosis care, to a proactive model with emphasis on prevention and management. As a result health systems are now seeking more effective ways to get people to adopt healthier behaviors to improve outcomes and address the rising costs of chronic conditions.

Online behavioral therapy interventions that positively impact the physical conditions for diabetes, and other chronic diseases, can help to address these issues. They can cost-effectively deliver proven tools and strategies for better lifestyle management and medication adherence, with online support and coaching to directly influence motivation, confidence and engagement. With high-speed Internet access available to most Americans at home or through a smart mobile device, these programs are able to deliver 24/7 access to value-based care that focuses on improving patient behaviors and addressing emotional conditions associated with chronic disease management..

The connection between diabetes and behavior

A Type 2 Diabetes diagnosis often occurs later in a person’s life, after they have built well-established eating and lifestyle habits. Effective management of diabetes, however, often requires significant lifestyle and behavioral changes that many patients find difficult to adapt to.

The diabetes management regimen is a lifelong commitment that the patient is reminded of at every meal and every social occasion and requires continuous dietary discipline. The tangible rewards of management-plan adherence may be minimal or nonexistent for some patients other than fewer complications down the line. Regressing to pre-diagnosis behaviors, on the other hand, may offer instant gratification.

In short, the behavior and lifestyle changes associated with diabetes is challenging and often feels overwhelming, especially when patients lack the education and social support at home to adhere to their regimen. These feelings can contribute to anxiety and depression, with one study finding that depression was twice as likely in patients with diabetes.

Online behavioral health addresses diabetes and self-management

Evidence-based gold standard telehealth programs present a new, effective care venue for the management of chronic physical and behavioral health conditions. Online programs reduce the time, travel and financial expense of frequent in-person appointments for the patient while decreasing the staffing and facility demands for the provider organization.

Telehealth programs also present the unique capability of simultaneously addressing associated behavioral health conditions along with helping patients manage their chronic physical condition. For example, online programs can effectively treat “diabetes distress,” which is the term for worrying about the future and disease complications, as well as the guilt or anxiety associated with straying from a management regimen. The resulting improved diabetes self-management leads to confidence, motivation, and optimism, which can initiate a positive self-perpetuating cycle of engagement and reinforcement.

Space from Diabetes

These web-based telehealth programs need to be evidence-based and shaped by both physical and behavioral health subject-matter experts. While the quality and efficacy of the content is essential, the presentation must engage the user through its intuitive design, personalization features and its robust, secure and responsive technologies.

The focus of the programs should be on the accountable-care Triple Aim of improving the health outcomes of populations, reducing per capita care costs and enhancing patient experience, with research and evaluation that supports their effectiveness.

All of the above have been incorporated into SilverCloud Health’s new Space from Diabetes solution, launched earlier this week. SilverCloud Health’s Space from Diabetes follows the established gold standard described here, while eliminating educational, financial and behavioral barriers to effective self-management.

The highly interactive and supportive platform encourages adherence to treatment regimens, including medication, diet, exercise, and self-monitoring while addressing behavioral health for holistic, patient-centered care. Any Accountable Care Organization, hospital, medical group, or behavioral health professional interested in cost-effective and clinically supported methods of integrated patient care should explore what Space from Diabetes has to offer.