Do you have a hectic work schedule? Are you traveling across the country for college? A new program of virtual visits at Joslin Diabetes Center seeks to close these gaps and make diabetes as manageable as possible for patients regardless of distance. Joslin is utilizing online appointments to reduce the barriers to connect with your physician.
One year ago, the Joslin Diabetes Center began working with SBR Health to develop a software to make the virtual visit program a reality. Paul Penta, Joslin’s Virtual Visit Program Manager, explains the technology and its benefits:
“Changes in technology have possibly impacted the diabetes space more than other areas of healthcare. Given the self-management nature of diabetes, both type-1 and type-2, self-management technologies have had a huge impact on patient’s lives” said Penta. “This is just the next progression in allowing folks more control over their own disease and their own lives”.
If you can install software on your computer, you can conduct a virtual visit—each appointment is conducted on a downloadable computer program. During their virtual appointments the patients will follow a systematic flow similar to the in-person clinic, making the appointment as efficient as possible. After downloading the program, the patient will login just before the appointment and connect with a front desk staff member. The patient is then transferred to the physician’s queue where the provider can pick up the patient’s video call from a virtual “waiting room.”
During the appointment, the program allows patient or physician to share computer screens with test results, blood glucose logs and other necessary information. After the appointment, the patient can be transferred back to the centralized appointments office to make a follow-up appointment if necessary.
Early last year, the virtual visit team ran a pilot with approximately fifteen virtual visits with patients from all ages and demographics.
“We learned a lot from that. We learned how we needed to change the technology and improve it for our patients and their experience. Over the winter we were testing those improvements” said Penta improvements include options to reconnect if a connections is lost, bandwidth and hardware tests and other features.
There are three different types of virtual appointments that can be made; a physician or nurse practitioner follow-up visit, behavioral health, or education. The duration and cost of the appointment varies between the three options. Currently, insurance companies will not reimburse for virtual appointments.
Although this program is paid for out-of-pocket, Penta believes that the cost is comparable to copays, parking, time saved traveling to the clinic and missed days of work. If a patient has a computer and a high-speed internet connection, a visit with a physician can take place right in the patient’s home or office.
“There’s time-savings, cost savings and there’s much less effort on the part of the patient to connect with our physicians,” said Penta.
The virtual visits program has been developed for existing Joslin patients; new patients must first visit the clinic because it is necessary to have blood work done as well as to meet his or her physician.
Interested in participating in these virtual visits? Speak with your clinician at your next appointment.