The Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE’s) at Riverside Medical Center are working with providers at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca to help patients with diabetes improve their health.
“We have been working hard with the clinic on helping people with diabetes get into better control,” said Marci Reynolds, RN, CDE, and supervisor of the Health and Wellness Department at RMC. “The awareness the physicians have for the role and value of diabetes education has increased. We’ve become part of the active care team, more so than in the past. Diabetes Self Management Training (DSMT) is about training patients to manage their disease, and support them through the process of education, lifestyle and healthy behavior changes needed to better control their diabetes. It’s mostly about working with each individual patient to help them decide what they can do to improve their health.”
Reynolds said one key aim is to help patients reach a healthy hemoglobin A1C level, which is a blood test that indicates the patient’s average blood sugar, and is a key indicator of good control. Diabetes education programs help bring those levels down, said Reynolds. Physicians have been on the ball to monitor levels and talk about options with patients. The CDE’s and the providers and staff at ThedaCare Physicians-Waupaca began a project last fall aimed at targeting patients who were not in a healthy range for A1C, and thereby at increased risk for serious complications of diabetes. “If their A1C level was not in range, the staff and providers would talk to them about going to diabetes education,” said Reynolds.
As a result, there has been a 30 percent increase in participation, which “has caused us to create more groups and add more appointments,” said Reynolds.
Also, as part of last fall’s project, they helped bring about a computer program that will soon been implemented throughout ThedaCare, and piloted in Waupaca at ThedaCare Physicians. Now, when anybody with diabetes comes in for a visit, a screen prompts the nurse or doctor to ask about diabetes education. “Attending formal diabetes education at diagnosis and annually is recommended by the American Diabetes Association,” said Reynolds. “This new computer prompt will enable even more patients to come in for diabetes education. It’s a really cool thing.”
Reynolds said this is a feature that has been a dream for a long time. “I guess the timing was right,” she said, noting that ThedaCare leaders saw there was a group of people passionate about helping get A1C’s down, creating this system-wide improvement.
She is excited, and a little nervous, about the future about diabetes education. “We anticipate many more patients attending our programs, and we will be challenged with being able to accommodate them all,” she said, noting they have added staff, extended hours and added more groups, like the popular boot camp, which combines exercise and a class to teach about controlling diabetes and having healthier lifestyles.
They plan to add a monthly evening class for those newly diagnosed with diabetes. “They will learn the down and dirty on how to care for themselves and there will be an opportunity to sign up for the full program,” said Reynolds. “Diabetes Self Management Training and Support is not a ‘one size fits all’ service. Our goal is to have meaningful programs for patients at every stage of their disease.”
Reynolds said her department is coming up with creative ways to help educate patients about diabetes, and support them to make changes in their lives that will improve their diabetes control. And she knows they will have the support from their doctors. “Together, we’re really trying to make changes and work together as a team,” she said. “Taking care of diabetes is really a team approach.”