Mobile health, telehealth care can increase access to diabetes education, expand practice

 Joanne Rinker, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

Joanne Rinker, MS, RD, LDN, CDE

With the growing use of mobile phones and tablets, diabetes educators have an opportunity to increase patient access to diabetes education and expand their practices by engaging in telehealth care and using mobile health apps.

“Telehealth is on the rise, and it’s an option for diabetes educators to increase access to care and patient adherence,” said Joanne Rinker, MS, RD, LDN, CDE, director of training and technical assistance for the Center for Healthy North Carolina statewide.

Rinker will head today’s breakout session, “Engaging Patients through Virtual Interactions — Best Practices in Utilizing New Technology to Expand Access to Diabetes Education,” from 1:00 to 2:30 pm today in W205.

The term “mobile health” encompasses the use of mobile apps and devices to access patient data, such as blood glucose meter readings, heart monitor data and physical activity adherence. Mobile health increases access to care by allowing virtual interaction between an educator and a patient who may be long distances apart. Telehealth means using telecommunications and information technologies to provide health care remotely.

“Some blood glucose meters have apps that allow educators to log in to the patient’s portal, with the patient’s permission, to see what the patient’s blood sugar level was even an hour ago,” Rinker said. “That’s mobile health, being able to access data without actually being with the patient.

“With insurance restrictions, educators are limited to the number of times they can see a patient and bill for the service. Mobile health allows for interaction in between the times of direct patient contact.”

Rinker gave an example of the use of telehealth to expand an educator’s practice. “A diabetes educator in a physician’s office in Raleigh, for example, could assist other physicians around the state by setting up a computer in the other physicians’ offices where patients could talk to the educator virtually,” she said.  “This is a billable service.”

Rinker also will discuss how to bill for telehealth services. “Some insurance carriers are working toward covering these services. Medicare and Medicaid cover the services now,” Rinker said.

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