Western Health announced the launch of its Telediabetes program last week. It uses telehealth technology to put patients face-to-face with a specialist without ever having to leave their community.
Josh Harnett is a registered nurse and certified diabetic educator based in Stephenville. He will be one of the specialists who will speak to patients via video technology when referrals are given, providing them advice and education on how to manage their disease.
He said having visual contact with the patients, even through a TV screen is important.
“Assessments are far more visual they’re not only written in blood sugar records or food records,” he said. “You can’t address the mental health issues or other health concerns that impact diabetes on the phone. You can’t do it. And if someone is sitting in my office I can tell a lot more from their actions than I can from their words.”
Everything from the patient’s body size and shape, to their body language can help him determine how he will work with the patient to help them control their diabetes.
Burnett said telehealth technology allows him to share diabetes literature such as pamphlets and diagrams over the telehealth equipment as well.
Lorna Bursey, regional diabetes service manager with Western Health, said rates of diabetes are on the rise all over Newfoundland, which has the highest rates in Canada.
She said making treatment more available to everyone around the province, even in remote communities, is going to be a priority for Western Health.
She said the implementation of the Telediabetes program is in recognition of the significance of the disease.
“We’re really excited that what this means is we’re reducing the burden on individuals,” said Bursey.
Feedback she has received from one of the Telediabetes patents on the south coast indicates they saved between $100 and $500 by not having to travel to meet with a specialist. The patient also felt the service they received was much better than what they had experienced in the past.
She said the current Telediabetes rollout on the south coast is part of a larger regional plan to identify need for service and expand Telehealth to those areas.
“There’s a regional working group supported by Western Health, and it is also supported by a provincial initiative,” she said. “It’s looking at identified areas where we’re able to increase access to services through Telediabetes.”
She said there has been significant work getting the Telediabetes program running, from training to equipment set up. But she knows it is paying off as well.
“We are really excited about this,” said Bursey. “It’s new, innovative, it increases access, it’s available locally and it’s helping people get services to a significant disease.”