TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - Barbara Nichols has had a tough time controlling her diabetes since she was diagnosed three years ago. A trip to see a specialist would take time, involving a long drive to Topeka to see the closest endocrinologist.
But recently, Dr. Robert Coleman of Topeka's Cotton-O'Neil Diabetes Center examined Nichols - without her ever leaving Salina.
Despite the growing number of people with Type 2 diabetes, many areas remain without endocrinologists - the doctors who specialize in treating it. On I-70 between Topeka and Denver, Coleman says, you won't find any. Coleman says family doctors do the best they can with diabetic patients, but it often helps their care to see someone who works regularly with the disease. Seeing the need, Coleman says the Cotton-O'Neil Diabetes Center recently launched a program that uses technology to fill that gap.
It's a telemedicine program. The state's Kan-Ed program installed links between their Topeka clinic and Horton hospital and the Salina Cancer Center. Patients with diabetes can go to one those locations to "see" an endocrinologist rather than traveling a long distance.
Coleman says it's much like a regular visit. A nurse assists at the remote site doing heart, blood pressure and foot checks, while Coleman watches and asks follow ups. If any issues or concerns arise, the patient would then be instructed to make an appointment to be seen in person
Coleman is hopeful Cotton-O'Neil can continue to expand the program to meet a growing need. He says many people in rural areas who don't have access to care may simply go without.
Since Nichols hooked up with the link, her blood sugars are down and she's feeling better.
Coleman says the link also can be used to see people with other endocrine problems, like thyroid or pituitary gland issues.