Pandemics and Telehealth

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Pandemics and Telehealth

Molly McElwee MalloyContributor: Molly McElwee Malloy, RN, CDCES
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Pandemics are hard, telehealth is easy – do not neglect your diabetes during a health crisis.

Living through a pandemic with a chronic disease is challenging but seeing your diabetes educator or diabetes clinician during a pandemic should not be. With the convenience of telehealth, diabetes visits, for the most part, can be done from the comfort of your home. I recently had my own diabetes telehealth visit; I emailed the data from my t:slim X2™ with Control-IQ™ technology to my clinician ahead of time for review. We were able to discuss things quite easily, and I was able to get feedback on potential changes I was considering. I have never had an easier visit and thought – wow, we should really be doing this more often! It felt great for someone else to celebrate my wins with me!

Molly Clarity

Let’s walk through preparing for your diabetes telehealth visit to alleviate any worries or nervousness you may have.

  • First, what are you using to monitor your diabetes? Is it a BG meter? Is it an app? Is it a pump or CGM? Whatever it is, the data from that device needs to be shared with your clinician. Most BG meters with Bluetooth® are compatible with apps. Some must be uploaded to a software online – calling the 800 number on the back of your meter will lead you to customer service who can walk you through this step if you are unsure. It is your data, and you own it, so why not have access to it? For tips on downloading, check out resources at Glooko or download an app that works with your meter or CGM like SugarMate or MySugr. If you are using a Tandem t:slim X2 insulin pump, you can download the mobile app to automatically upload your data to t:connect.
  • Second, send your data to your clinician. Telehealth is all about efficiency. To be efficient, you need to have data to inform your clinician about what is going on. Sending your data to your clinician preferably 24 – 48 hours in advance gives your clinician time to look at the data and prepare some suggestions or questions before talking to you.
  • Then look at your own data. I know sometimes it is uncomortable to confront things that might have gone sideways – which is especially common when reviewing diabetes data. You will almost certainly have some data you would rather hide and not admit is yours. Separating yourself from your data is important. You are not your data; your data tells the story of what happened to you. It is also great for finding out what can be done better or differently next time to avoid a less than desired outcome. Again, you are not your data. Your data helps you and your clinician figure out how to treat your diabetes; it doesn’t measure your personal worth.
  • Next, write down all your questions about your diabetes that you would like answered. Do you want to talk about exercise? Is there a new medication you are curious about? Do you want to learn more about refining a correction factor? Are you worried about COVID-19 and diabetes and want to talk through scenarios with your clinician? Whatever it is, write it down. It is easy to forget in the moment. Another good question to ask is if you need any refills or new prescriptions. Having adequate diabetes supplies and medications, particularly during a pandemic, is essential. You should have several weeks’ worth of both (if not more) on hand should you need to stay at home for a period due to a spike in COVID-19 cases in your area. This is the time, you have a captive audience, look at your supplies and medications and see what you can address on the call.
  • Then, choose a comfortable and quiet place you can concentrate and have a conversation when your appointment time comes. I do not recommend taking a walk next to a construction site where, “beep, beep, beep” could be the song of the day. Do not take the call while doing other activities like making dinner or cleaning. Yes, this is telehealth, and it is from your home, but focus on your health here. Put aside any distractions to center the content of your conversation. Telehealth visits take less time, so you will still have plenty of time to multitask to your heart’s content.
  • Finally, set up a follow-up appointment at the suggested length of time. Ask about the best timing to get your next labs drawn.

Most important of all is taking time to care for yourself and your diabetes despite the unease associated with the pandemic. This is one visit you should not postpone as it will help to keep you healthy during COVID-19. Talk to your doctor about a telehealth visit today. You will wonder why you did not do it sooner.

***Note: Molly McElwee-Malloy, RN, CDCES, is an employee of Tandem Diabetes Care. Individual symptoms, situations, circumstances, and results may vary.***

Molly McElwee Malloy, RN, CDCES, is the Clinical Outcomes Manager working with the Behavioral Sciences Team at Tandem Diabetes Care. Molly’s focus is on understanding post-market data, human factors testing, and developing teaching materials for automated insulin delivery systems. Formerly, she was the Head of Patient Engagement and Director of Marketing for TypeZero Technologies, which was recently acquired by DexCom. Molly has served as a national spokesperson for the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (ADCES) and the former chair of the Technology Workgroup for ADCES, which assisted in the development of DANA. Molly also serves on the advisory board for DDATA Innovation Summit for DiabetesMine.

Previously, Molly was a Diabetes Educator at the University of Virginia’s Diabetes Education Management Program (DEMP). She has served as a Clinical Research Coordinator at the Center for Diabetes Technology (CDT) and diabetes educator at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. At CDT, she was responsible for running artificial pancreas trials, focus groups, and clinical data interpretation for automated insulin delivery systems. Molly brings over 20 years of experience with type 1 diabetes. She is a former participant in artificial pancreas trials prior to beginning her research career. She is considered a content expert in automated insulin delivery systems and diabetes technology.