Dialogue Blog

Diabetes Education at a Crossroads

Posted by Glen Greissinger on Sep 8, 2015 6:21:00 PM

Finger_stickThe healthcare professionals we work with tell us there’s a disconnect between diabetes patients and the educational resources which can most help those patients.  It seems that diabetes patients who are in most need of education about their disease are frequently the least likely to become educated, and thus they can fall into an unfortunate spiral that leads to disease progression.

With 29 million people in the U.S. having diabetes, and 1 in 4 not knowing they have it, clearly there’s an important role to be played in building diabetes awareness and in disseminating educational resources to more patients.1 But the CDC reports that only 57% of diabetes patients age 18+ have attended a diabetes education class.2 Barriers to participation include... lack of insurance coverage (or high copays), the need for physician referrals, as well as a series of avoidance behaviors that relate to individual perceptions or denial of diabetes as a serious health condition. The simple inconvenience of scheduling and meeting with a diabetes educator is another factor.

Diabetes Education is Beneficial

For patients who pursue diabetes education (our research showing that 75% do so in the first year after their diagnosis), those proactive steps provide significant benefits. Patients will attend 3.6 class sessions on average, and diabetes educators report “moderately-to-significantly improved” understanding of diabetes among 71% of those patients. Patients tend to get a great deal of information during the first education session, but 74% report they are initially “confused” about diabetes, and worse yet, 92% are “overwhelmed” with the amount of new health information they need to process.

With these realities facing newly diagnosed patients, as well as previously diagnosed patients who have never received adequate diabetes education, steps need to be taken to provide additional free resources for patients. We are introducing a new program called the Diabetes Outlook First Year Learning Series, which will be delivered through diabetes care professionals starting in Spring 2016. The program will include free “hands-on” materials (made possible by carefully selected sponsors), which will be provided to patients when they meet with their diabetes care team. And to lessen the burden of overwhelming patients with too much information in too short a span of time, the program will include individualized diabetes education topics which will be matched to the patient’s needs and emailed to them over a full 12-months, augmenting their entire “first year” of diabetes education.

By organizing diabetes educational resources into an easy-to-use and easy-to-deliver format, we are hopeful the process of diabetes education can be made more efficient and effective for more patients.

 

1 http://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesfactsheet/

2 http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm6346a2.htm

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