Diabetes is an epidemic that affects both individuals who suffer from the disease and the overall economy. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), more than 29 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, a dramatic increase in the previous estimate of 26 million in 2010.

The percentage of Americans age 65 and older with diabetes remains high, at 25.9 percent, or 11.8 million seniors. Additionally, in 2012, diabetes care cost the U.S. healthcare system $245 billion, according to the last report by the American Diabetes Association.

The cost of diabetes care is significant for patients as well. One person with diabetes spends about $13,700 per year on medical expenses, with $7,900 of that total being attributed to diabetes.

As with many chronic conditions, the toll is not only financial but also emotional. Coping with the rigors of routine monitoring, blood tests and medical visits can leave many patients feeling defeated and even depressed. Luckily, telehealth can change — and is changing the landscape of diabetes management while reducing costs and increasing access and affordability in the process.

Medication and care plan compliance

Lack of medication compliance is a significant risk factor in diabetes management. No matter what form of medication a person with diabetes is prescribed, maintaining proper compliance is an essential part of staying healthy.

For some individuals with diabetes, oral medications can assist in glucose level management, while others require injectable insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. Injections and oral medications must be taken as prescribed, and routine blood testing must be done to ensure that the medications are effective, or to determine if they need to be adjusted in order to maintain healthy blood-sugar levels.

Telemonitoring has become an obvious and effective solution to diabetes management, as it can assist with the constant monitoring and medication compliance issues that surround diabetes care. Telemonitoring connects nurses and doctors to patients to help them manage their diabetes in the comfort of their own homes.

Via telehealth programs, patients can keep track of blood-sugar readings, and these readings can be transmitted to the patient's physician for review and analysis. These daily or weekly readings can reveal trends in the patients' health that allow their physicians to make adjustments in medications as needed.

This proactive management of diabetes allows companies to reduce the cost of treating this chronic condition for such a large population.

Behavior modification

Telehealth can also help in behavior modification of patients.

Many patients who begin using telemonitoring services and are not currently checking glucose levels or properly taking medications can be educated by telehealth nurses. They then often become star patients who check their blood sugar regularly, keep diet and medication logs, take their insulin on time every time, and keep their Hemoglobin A1C within normal range.

With over 9 percent of the population living with diabetes and with diabetes accounting for around $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages, the need for improved disease management is growing. Telehealth companies are developing new technology every day to answer the call and help patients and healthcare providers find effective and efficient diabetes management solutions.