How To Engage Patients With Diabetes

Managing diabetes can be challenging. Newly diagnosed patients often have a steep learning curve that includes  understanding health information related to their condition, learning about behavioral changes they need to make, and understanding their care plan.

All of this change is hard. Their lifestyle may need to take a drastic turn, and often it doesn’t feel like it’s for the better.

On top of behavioral changes, they may lack support and engagement strategies that keep them activated in their care. At home, their family and friends don’t understand why they can’t eat the way they always have, and family engagement in the patient’s health isn’t what it could be. Their health care providers, on the other hand, want to be supportive, but the amount of patients they work with often means some patients will fall through the cracks.

To provide the support patients need, health care organizations and health systems need to provide patient engagement solutions to clinicians and health coaches clinicians and health coaches that allow for a better way to improve patient experience and patient satisfaction as well as more efficiently managing patient relationships to enable behavior change and to encourage adherence to their care plan. Fortunately, there is a better way with a patient relationship management platform that helps care teams engage with patients in a scalable, efficient way. First, though, let’s explore how diabetes affects patients and providers and why they need a better solution.

How diabetes affects patients

The number of people with diabetes increased by over 300 million globally between 1980 and 2014. When patients don’t have the support they need, health outcomes are notably poor and patients eventually develop costly complications. For many of these patients, behavior change is the main way they can reduce the risks associated with their condition.

Difficulty making lifestyle changes

This means that other than follow-up appointments with health care professionals, patients with diabetes play a major role in managing their own health. They need to know how to monitor their glucose levels and what behavior changes will help them avoid complications.

A lack of health literacy and support makes sweeping changes hard to accomplish for many patients.

This isn’t their fault, however. Nor is the health care system entirely to blame. The biggest challenge to both patients and care teams is that there hasn’t been an efficient, scalable way to support patients.

Historically, the health care system has lacked the tools to foster relationships with patients.

Typical patient engagement strategies often look like routine visits to the doctor’s office, possibly a phone call or check-in between visits, and maybe a text message reminding them of an upcoming appointment.

Any additional relationship management has been unscalable and costly both in terms of health care professional and financial resources, leaving many patients with a sense of helplessness when it comes to their health.

Social determinants of health

To complicate matters, many patients with chronic conditions, including diabetes, are negatively impacted by social determinants of health such as low health education, limited access to transportation to get to their primary care provider, and limited access to healthy food choices or exercise options.

For example, urban patients may live in neighborhoods with unsafe walking conditions including very few sidewalks or parks. They don’t feel safe getting out for a brisk walk, so they default to a sedentary lifestyle – a risk factor for diabetes and for complications after a diabetes diagnosis.

Patients in rural areas, on the other hand, may lack access to medical facilities. This makes it difficult for them to get care when they need it.

Urban food deserts and limited access to transportation also make it difficult for many rural and urban patients to get to a grocery store. They may not be able to get fresh produce, so their diets may consist of processed, high-calorie foods that can cause chronic disease or chronic disease complications.

A sense of fatalism

Since both patients and care teams lack the tools to manage their condition, it’s easy to think the only option is to throw in the towel. Patients may not see any hope in diet or exercise. Clinicians may be overwhelmed with high patient volumes and can’t see a way out.

A better way to manage diabetes

Patients and care teams need to know that there is a better way — a better way for care teams to foster relationships that empower the patient to manage their own care and achieve better health. A patient relationship management platform like Welkin gives care teams the tools they need to create care plans, support patient health goals with engagement strategies, and ensure patients don’t slip through the cracks.

Low blood sugar readings

Our platform is highly configurable. If a patient manually records their glucose levels or if your digital health product integrates with wearables, the care team can see that data and take action if needed. For instance, if a patient’s glucose levels were to drop, online care managers would receive a notification. The care manager would be able to reach out and help that patient with patient-centered care: the right care at the right time in the right channel.

This hands-on support helps patients achieve better outcomes and avoid the risk of hypoglycemia. They can also learn more about the symptoms that could lead to further complications. This added level of support can help patients improve self-management and avoid medical interventions.

Tracking patient progress

It’s hard enough for patients to keep track of their progress let alone communicate it to the care team. Clinicians are too familiar with hearing things like “I think I exercised most days” without the data to see if the patient really did.

Health tracking through integration with tools like wearables means care teams can see, at a glance, if patients are making the necessary lifestyle changes or if they need additional support. Armed with this knowledge, care managers can guide patients and give helpful nudges when necessary.

Motivational interviewing

In addition, care teams can help patients set achievable goals. Together patients and their care providers can work through obstacles and find small, simple shifts the patient can make that will have a big impact on their health.

With motivational interviewing, care managers act as guides to help patients with self-discovery. This creates a safe space where patients can share openly, find affirmation, and receive guidance on what achievable lifestyle changes they can start to make.

See the big picture

Care coordination through a patient relationship management platform paints the big picture for care teams. They can quickly pinpoint what patients are at risk, which patients need a different engagement plan, and where patients seem to fall through the cracks so they can improve patient activation, strengthen patient outcomes, and lower costs associated with complications.

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