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Virtual healthcare in the time of COVID-19

What a strange time we’re living in… Remember when we could easily go to our doctor’s office or clinic or hospital without it feeling dangerous? These days, with the daily reality of COVID-19, a check-up feels risky. Which is why we’re looking at virtual healthcare options.

Have you seen your doctor since lockdown began?

We asked our Diabetic South African community if they’ve been to their doctor since lockdown began. Here’s what they had to say:

Some people have been to their doctors without worry, others don’t want to, still more don’t want to go to a lab for blood tests. It can be tricky to get a picture of your blood sugar control without an HbA1c test, but until now those have only been available from labs. Prescriptions can now be extended to 12 months, so some people are waiting till it feels safer to visit a doctor.

Virtual healthcare

But what about remote or virtual healthcare? A few people said they’ve been speaking to their doctors on the phone, or on email, and there are some doctors who are comfortable using Zoom or video call for consultations. Some even prefer it!

“I’ve seen my endo over Zoom and to be honest, it was better than normal! I didn’t have to drive all the way to the hospital after work and we could share screen data and discuss it while having the consultation. I honestly preferred it.” Shelly

So how can we make it easier to communicate with our doctors without having to see them in real life? Luckily, technology is making it simple for us.

Your blood sugar dashboard

With apps like FreeStyle LibreLink (mobile) and Libreview (website) from Abbott and MySugr from Accu-Chek, it’s possible to upload your blood sugar readings so that your doctor can access them. This means that whether you use a FreeStyle Libre or a FreeStyle Optium Neo, you can plug your device in and all your readings will be uploaded to a single place. You can then share these readings with your doctor, so that he or she can spot trends, see if there are any problems, give advice and even check your estimated HbA1c. Although these are called estimated HbA1c results (because they’re not from a blood test), they have proven very accurate. 

For those who don’t have either of these meters, MySugr from Accu-Chek offers a similar service. Once you’ve downloaded the MySugr Pro app (currently free because of COVID-19), you can send a report of your blood sugar readings to your doctor.

Pros and Cons of virtual healthcare

There are a number of pros and cons to consulting with your doctor like this. The pros are pretty obvious – you don’t have to travel to your appointment, and you don’t have to risk further COVID-19 exposure at a place where there are likely to be more sick people. But there are other benefits, too. Being able to see the full picture of your blood sugar for the last 2 weeks (Libreview offers a 2 week glucose report) can make it clear to you – and your doctor – where the problems are. If you’re consistently going high or low at a certain time, you’ll be able to see it. And as we all know, knowledge is power. Once you know where your challenges are, it’s easier to fix them.

Of course, there are things you miss out on, too. Not all doctors are as comfortable on the phone or video call as in person, so you might not feel the same connection. But the safety and peace of mind during this strange time is definitely worth it.

What do you think? Are you comfortable with virtual healthcare or do you look forward to the days when we can go back to our doctors in person?

ADC-27405 v1 Sept 2020

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Sweet Life is a registered NPO/PBO (220-984) with a single goal: to improve diabetes in South Africa. We are funded by sponsorships and donations from aligned companies and organisations who believe in our work. We only share information that we believe benefits our community. While some of this information is linked to specific brands, it is not an official endorsement of that brand. We believe in empowering people with diabetes to make the best decisions they can, to live a healthy, happy life with diabetes.