Doctors embrace telehealth for diabetes care during pandemic

A screenshot of the Western Sydney Diabetes ‘Covid-19 and Diabetes’ live forum, chaired by WentWest chief executive officer Ray Messom.

Patients and doctors are getting expert advice to manage diabetes through the pandemic via three-way telehealth consults, thanks to the support of a Western Sydney Local Health District (WSLHD) diabetes co-ordinator.

There has been a 14% drop in attendance to general practices in Western Sydney since the institution of lockdown measures in NSW, as well as a 6% drop in the proportion of emergency department patients testing positive for diabetes, according to research led by WSLHD Research, Monitoring and Surveillance Coordinator Gideon Meyerowitz-Katz.

The project is an initiative of WSD, which works very closely with the Western Sydney Primary Health Network, WentWest, community services and specialist practices to combat the growing threat diabetes poses in western Sydney.

Western Sydney Diabetes (WSD) director Professor Glen Maberly said the findings raised worrying questions about the provision of ongoing diabetes care – and prompted the organisation to action.

“Nearly half the population of Western Sydney is either affected by or at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, and this is a disease that needs early detection and proper management,” Prof Maberly said.

“If left unmanaged it can lead to serious complications including heart attack, vision problems and kidney damage.

“Our challenge throughout this pandemic is to ensure patients still have access to the information and support they need to safely manage their condition.”

To address the issue, WSD hosted a ‘Covid-19 and Diabetes’ live forum in conjunction with WentWest earlier this month with 150 attendees, including around 50 local GPs, which included presentations and discussion about the changing face of general practice and pivot to telehealth.

Joel Casipit

Colebee resident Joel Casipit is among those who have used telehealth since the pandemic began this year.

Joel was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes nine years ago, and connected with diabetes educators at Blacktown Hospital in December last year to help reduce his medication intake.

“I’m now part of a trial with a device that constantly monitors my blood sugar levels, so I can check it on my phone and my diabetes educator can also access it,” Joel said.

“Mapping the day and seeing the trends has helped me to stop snacking. It also gives me a better understanding of Filipino foods that I can’t find in the calorie counting app I use.

“Telehealth saves me a lot of time. There’s no travelling and waiting, I can just see my GP at the allocated time and email my diabetes educator whenever I have questions. I will still need face-to-face consults for certain issues but this is a better option for regular help with managing my diabetes.”

For more information and advice about managing diabetes, please call WSD on 8670 0082 or email