The American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists 21st Annual Scientific and Clinical Congress:

Virtual Endocrine Consultations Can Improve Outcomes for Patients in Rural Settings

Telemedicine-based endocrine consultations were proven effective in improving outcomes measures in patients with diabetes and other endocrine disorders in rural areas who may not have access to endocrine specialists, a new study has found.1

Rabia Rehman, MD, et al, from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, evaluated 66 patients over two and a half years who were referred to the Tele-medicine Unit of the University of Tennessee, Memphis, by their primary care providers. Of the 66 patients, 53% (n = 35) had type 2 diabetes, 41% (n = 27) had hypertension, 45% (n = 30) had dyslipidemia, 30% (n = 20) had thyroid disease, and 12% (n = 8) had hypercalcemia or osteoporosis.

At 6 months, follow-up data for 20 diabetic patients showed significant improvement in 85% (n = 17) of the patients, according to investigators, with a decreased glycated hemoglobin A1c from a mean of 9.1 to 7.1 (p < 0.002). Follow-up data available in 4 patients with thyroid disease showed all of them returning to a state of normal thyroid gland function, and 70% of dyslipidemia patients with follow-up data (n = 12 out of 17) showed improvement in their lipid profiles.

The prevalence of endocrine diseases, particularly diabetes, in rural areas of the United States is ≈17% higher than in urban areas. “This disparity is compounded by the lack of specialists in rural locations,” affirmed investigators. By being able to transfer electronic medical data to nurses in distant locations, clinical endocrinologists located in an urban center can communicate through video teleconference to patients in rural locations, allowing for visual examination/inspection and real-time “face-to-face” doctor/patient feedback.

“[Telemedicine] proved to be an acceptable means of providing affordable and accessible care in endocrine patients,” concluded the investigators. However, prospective studies on the application of telemedicine in endocrine practice are recommended.

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