For people living with chronic conditions during COVID-19, telehealth can bridge to their doctors.

“Just Like Meeting in the Office”: This is Telehealth.

May 5 2020

Stuck at home? The doctor will see you now.

As much as novel coronavirus has taken away from our everyday lives, it has brought focused attention to telehealth and remote patient monitoring for people sheltering in place and living with chronic diseases like diabetes, chronic pain and movement disorders as well as cardiovascular conditions that require regular medical attention.

These digital connections can turn living rooms into a virtual exam rooms.

What is telehealth? The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) describes it as "real time interactive communication between the patient and the physician or practitioner at the distant site."

During the COVID-19 pandemic, CMS has expanded the use of telehealth for the people it covers as part of the government’s response to help flatten the coronavirus curve.

Real-world example of how it can work

Mary Callow was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2013. After years of struggling "to find the right combinations of medicines and the right doctor, I reached the point where I was taking more and more medications and they lasted shorter and shorter periods of time."

She turned to deep brain stimulation (DBS) to manage her Parkinson’s symptoms.

Two thin wires send mild electrical pulses to help modulate and normalize the wayward signals in the brain, similar to the way a pacemaker gets a heart's beat back in time.

"It's made such a difference in my life," Callow said. "A place where I feel confident and comfortable. A place where life is better."

As the impact of her Parkinson’s can change, she can work with her doctor to adjust her DBS treatment with regular follow-up appointments to help set the device exactly where it needs to be. However now, these follow up appointments look a bit different.

"We're on lockdown, we're quarantined, and it’s not easy to get in and see your doctor," she said.

That's OK. Mary's DBS programmer runs on an Apple iOS device.

"Our DBS patients all have an iPod touch, so I’m connecting directly with my patients from their house and through their Abbott DBS system," Dr. Drew Falconer said. "Not only can they make modifications to their device by adjusting pre-set programs using the Patient Controller application, I can evaluate the impact of any modifications made separately using FaceTime video calls."

"It's just like meeting in the office," Callow said. "I tell him what my problem is, what my symptoms are and he’ll make a suggestion right then and there. In a 10-minute FaceTime call, we discussed my DBS therapy needs."1

More connections when you need them most

It's not just that you can’t get to your doctor's office. Changes in health rarely sync up with best laid plans. That can be particularly true for people living with chronic conditions such as diabetes, heart arrythmias and heart failure.

We can help here, too.

For adults managing their diabetes care, our FreeStyle Libre portfolio includes digital tools like smartphone apps (FreeStyle LibreLink2 and LibreLinkUp) and LibreView (a cloud-based data system) that allow users, caregivers and doctors to connect remotely to manage their diabetes at their fingertips — fingertips that aren't suffering the pain of regular fingersticks.3

We have also launched virtual diabetes clinics and online educational classes globally.

We have more telehealth options that can be used when it makes sense for people’s health to work remotely with their doctors.

For people living with potential arrythmias, Confirm Rx — an insertable cardiac monitor (ICM) placed just under the skin during a minimally invasive procedure — can continuously monitor for abnormal heart rhythms.

It's designed not only to detect arrhythmias but also to wirelessly transmit data via Bluetooth to your smart phone so your doctor has real-time access anywhere in the world to see how your heart is performing.

And for people living with heart failure, changes in the pressure of blood through your pulmonary artery can indicate a worsening condition — even before you notice symptoms.

Our CardioMEMS HF System remotely and proactively monitors cardiac activity and sends data to treating physicians. As cardiac activity changes, so too can care plans between in-person visits.

Novel coronavirus has brought about unprecedented times. If necessity is the mother of invention, these are telehealth innovations that are in place and ready now.

We're in this together.

By staying apart.

Our telehealth technology can help people and their doctors meet those demands.

"It's hard to imagine this isn’t the future of healthcare," Dr. Falconer said. "So in these changing times, it critical that we be nimble and adapt. More and more, we are going to look for tools that are upgradable, add more connectivity and access to both patients and providers."

So even in the age of social distancing, doctors can still make house calls. They'll see you now.

For important safety information for deep brain stimulation, please click here.

For important safety information for FreeStyle Libre, please click here.

For important safety information for Confirm Rx, please click here.

For important safety information for CardioMEMS, please click here.

1On the iPod Touch, Abbott does not recommend using FaceTime and Patient Controller applications simultaneously. Abbott has not tested the use of these applications for interaction in parallel. The St. Jude Medical™ Patient Controller User’s Guide discourages the installation of additional applications on the St. Jude Medical Patient Controller.

2The FreeStyle LibreLink app is compatible with NFC-enabled smartphones running Android OS 5.0 or higher and iPhone 7 or later running iOS 11 or later. Use of the FreeStyle LibreLink app requires registration with LibreView, a service provided by Abbott and Newyu, Inc.

3Fingersticks are required for treatment decisions when you see Check Blood Glucose symbol, when symptoms do not match system readings, when you suspect readings may be inaccurate, or when you experience symptoms that may be due to high or low blood glucose.


You are about to exit for another Abbott country or region specific website

Please be aware that the website you have requested is intended for the residents of a particular country or region, as noted on that site. As a result, the site may contain information on pharmaceuticals, medical devices and other products or uses of those products that are not approved in other countries or regions.

The website you have requested also may not be optimized for your specific screen size.

Do you wish to continue and exit this website?


You are about to exit the Abbott family of websites for a 3rd party website

Links which take you out of Abbott worldwide websites are not under the control of Abbott, and Abbott is not responsible for the contents of any such site or any further links from such site. Abbott is providing these links to you only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any link does not imply endorsement of the linked site by Abbott.

The website that you have requested also may not be optimized for your screen size.

Do you wish to continue and exit this website?