Diabetes Education Can Improve Outcomes

Educating patients can improve long-term outcomes.

Diabetes is a serious health issue affecting a large number of American adults. Recent research has revealed comprehensive education on the condition can improve outcomes for patients. Physicians' practices may want to consider this in their patient retention efforts.

The study was conducted by New York-Presbyterian Hospital's Ambulatory Care Network and followed 1,263 diabetic patients who were enrolled in the Diabetes Self-Management and Education Program, Fierce Healthcare reported. These patients were from a low-income immigrant population living in northern Manhattan.

This program was implemented through the collaborative efforts of nurse educators, healthcare providers, community health workers and dieticians. The study analyzed the patients after 15 months of enrollment in the program and found the average individual's blood sugar levels dropped by 67 percent and LDL cholesterol levels were lowered by 53 percent. In addition, the number of patients with high blood pressure decreased from 32 percent to 25 percent. There are currently 29 million Americans with diabetes in the U.S., so this is a significant finding.

Focusing on Self-Care
The program aimed to educate patients on ways they could proactively manage their own healthcare through healthier behaviors, such as nutritional eating, getting more physical activity, better managing medications, monitoring vital signs and education on risks. This was considered a holistic approach to the complex issue.

Additionally, physicians held one-on-one meetings with patients to educate them on diabetes concerns. There were also group sessions to communicate healthy living guidelines, according to HNGN. Healthcare workers went as far as visiting study participants at home to identify opportunities for further behavioral change and ensure patients were adhering to dietary plans.

The healthcare industry is undergoing some dramatic transitions, and physicians will be held more accountable for patient outcomes. This is why it's particularly important to work with patients with chronic conditions like diabetes. These efforts can significantly improve outcomes, but they also can strengthen patient retention initiatives.

Other Educational Healthcare Programs Help Patients Take Charge
In a similar area, another program in Texas is aiming to improve management of diabetes for patients who have been diagnosed and for those who are at risk. Alice Echo News Journal, a Texas-based publication, stated that 1 in 4 South Texas residents have diabetes, 31 percent are overweight and 42.3 are obese. Being overweight or obese sharply increases the risk of developing diabetes.

To cope with this serious health threat, Texas A&M instituted the Healthy South Texas 2025 initiative to increase awareness, spread education and promote behavioral changes. The goal is to reduce preventable diseases in the area such as diabetes by 25 percent in the next 11 years. Educational sessions will be available for those who have early onset Type II diabetes. Similar to New York-Presbyterian Hospital's diabetes program, this initiative seeks to emphasize prevention and behavior modification to establish healthier habits and improve long-term outcomes. In the past year alone, 3,227 South Texans have been impacted by the program. 

How Physicians Can Promote Healthy Behavior Change
With the Affordable Care Act, physicians' reimbursements are tied to patient outcomes. There is a much greater focus on individuals taking a more active role in their own healthcare. This also applies to the management of serious chronic conditions, especially when these can be effectively treated with proper care, as in the case of diabetes. While it may seem difficult to engage patients, systems like electronic health records give doctors a portal to interact with their patient bases.

Targeted direct mail campaigns can improve awareness of programs like this, allowing them to reach more people. 

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