Group diabetes education administered through telemedicine: tools used and lessons learned.

Telemed J E Health. 2012 Jun;18(5):347-53 Kearns JW, Bowerman D, Kemmis K, Izquierdo RE, Wade M, Weinstock RS. 1 SUNY Upstate Medical University , Syracuse, New York.

Objective: To describe the use of telemedicine for teaching group diabetes education classes to individuals with diabetes mellitus in a rural medically underserved area.

Subjects and Methods: Adults with diabetes from a rural area served by Oswego Hospital in upstate New York were asked to participate in this study. Volunteers received diabetes education through real-time teleconferencing (n=27) by joining age- and sex-matched patients from the Joslin Diabetes Center, Syracuse, NY, in our "Living with Diabetes Class" (n=39). The two 3-h sessions offered comprehensive diabetes education by a diabetes nurse educator, dietitian, and exercise physiologist. These sessions were followed in 3 months by a 3-h follow-up class. Each group receiving tele-education consisted of two or three patients with diabetes.

Results: The hemoglobin A1c test (a blood test that estimates the overall average glucose levels over the past 3 months) improved in the face-to-face and the telemedicine groups. There was no significant change in weight between groups. Each group had significant improvements in scores on the Problem Areas In Diabetes survey, which is a measure of emotional functioning in diabetes. Diabetes treatment satisfaction as measured in the Diabetes Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire improved in the face-to-face group but not in the telemedicine group. Although the face-to-face group had significantly higher scores in the Diabetes Treatment Satisfaction Questionnaire, the telemedicine group was highly satisfied with the services provided.

Conclusions: Telemedicine offers an effective alternative approach for providing group diabetes education to individuals with poor access to diabetes education programs.

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