Aims/introduction: To investigate whether the COVID-19 pandemic affected behavioral changes and glycemic control in patients with diabetes and to conduct a survey of telemedicine during the pandemic.
Materials and methods: In this retrospective study, a total of 2,348 patients were included from 15 medical facilities. Patients were surveyed about their lifestyle changes and attitudes toward telemedicine. Hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c) levels were compared among before (from June 1 to August 31, 2019) and in the first (from June 1 to August 31, 2020) and in the second (from June 1 to August 31, 2021) year of the pandemic. A survey of physician attitudes toward telemedicine was also conducted.
Results: The HbA1c levels were comparable between 2019 (7.27 ± 0.97%), 2020 (7.28 ± 0.92%), and 2021 (7.25 ± 0.94%) without statistical difference between each of those 3 years. Prescriptions for diabetes medications increased during the period. The frequency of eating out was drastically reduced (51.7% in 2019; 30.1% in 2020), and physical activity decreased during the pandemic (48.1% in 2019; 41.4% in 2020; 43.3% in 2021). Both patients and physicians cited increased convenience and reduced risk of infection as their expectations for telemedicine, while the lack of physician-patient interaction and the impossibility of consultation and examination were cited as sources of concern.
Conclusions: Our data suggest that glycemic control did not deteriorate during the COVID-19 pandemic with appropriate intensification of diabetes treatment in patients with diabetes who continued to attend specialized diabetes care facilities, and that patients and physicians shared the same expectations and concerns about telemedicine.
Approval of the research protocol: This study was approved by the Institutional Review Board for Clinical Research of the National Center for Global Health and Medicine (approval number, NCGM‐S‐004287‐03; approval date, November 05, 2021).
Informed consent: Written informed consent was obtained from all patients.
Registry and the registration no. of the study/trial: N/A.