Why Is It Important to Understand Local Diabetes Education?

By Jennifer Low, IECI Coordinator

Still have some downtime due to COVID-19 and would like to be doing activities to better position your practice as your patient load begins to increase again?

One of these activities you could be doing now is to prepare to best support your diabetic patient population; a population which requires long-term and consistent medical eye care which is particularly helpful from a revenue perspective for your practice in the short and long-term.

Below you will see a description of a process to understand the diabetes education resources available in your community and how to facilitate your patients to take advantage of them. These are straightforward activities that can make significant changes in your patient’s health and outcomes, fostering patient retention and potentially even more referrals to your practice from local health care organizations.

The staff of PECAA’s Integrated Eye Care Initiative (IECI) have made calls to diabetes educators on behalf of Members across the country and they are typically available and very interested in hearing from eye care providers!

Understanding the local diabetes education resources available in your community helps…

  • Your practice become an invaluable, long-term member of the care team for your patients with diabetes.
  • Your patients become more engaged in their care, make healthy lifestyle choices and improving outcomes for your practice.
  • Foster referrals by establishing relationships between your practice and the practices or health systems with which the diabetes educators are associated.
  • Your practice follows the new AOA Evidence-Based Clinical Practice Diabetes Guidelines which clearly change the role of optometry from simply monitoring for diabetic retinopathy to helping the patient reduce their risk of developing retinopathy.*

*If you have not seen the new AOA guidelines, the IECI program has provided a nice summary of the guidelines and a link to easily access the guidelines themselves. You can find both of these things under the Resources section of the IECI webpage on the PECAA website. The two documents are titled “Summary of New AOA Guidelines” and “AOA Guidelines for Managing Patients with Diabetes.”  

In making calls to diabetes educators across the country, the IECI staff has found that it is typically best to take the following step-wise approach (see below for a description of how to access any research which may have already been completed in your area by IECI staff):

1) Make a call to the health care facility to identify the right contact person to discuss the diabetes education offered at that facility.

2) After speaking to the correct person, provide an introduction for yourself and your practice. Explain that the reason you are reaching out is to understand the education resources available for your diabetic patients as a means to engage the patient in their own care, encourage healthy lifestyle choices, and to help achieve the best outcomes for your patients.

3) In follow-up to your conversation, it’s helpful to send a follow-up email listing out the specific information you’d like to receive to best understand their education resources.

4) Often the diabetes educator will send a brochure and/or materials that describe the education offered and how to facilitate referrals. It’s important to then implement appropriate processes in your practice to begin identifying patients who would benefit from these resources. This involves education for your providers and staff. Start out by asking all patients with diabetes a set of questions we’ve provided on the IECI webpage titled, “Summary of Questions to Assess the Knowledge of Patients with Diabetes” which can be found under the Reference section of the IECI webpage on the PECAA website.

5) Please pass along any information you gather about diabetes education in your community to Jennifer Low at jlow@pecaa.com so we can post that information onto the State Map for others to access and for easy reference for your practice in the future.

As you start this outreach process, it is also helpful to take a few minutes to review the information under the section on the IECI webpage titled, “Change the Way My Practice Manages Patients With Diabetes.”

The IECI is finding that many Member practices around the country are interested in using this downtime caused by the pandemic to begin reviewing these materials and implementing these processes as it fits into their unique situation. You’ll be prepared to implement these processes as your patient load continues to increase.

Please feel free to reach out to Jennifer Low, the Coordinator of PECAA’s Integrated Eye Care Initiative, if you have any questions you’d like to discuss or for support in this process.

Questions?

Let us know at jlow@pecaa.com.

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