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Striving for Patient-Centered Diabetes Care

The pandemic has forced many Americans to re-examine their approach to life’s challenges and identify ways to be more efficient in changing times. The same should apply to treating people who live with diabetes. 

Many people with diabetes have co-occurring conditions such as obesity, high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease. These patients often find themselves being treated by separate medical teams advising separate approaches, prescribing separate medications and recommending separate dietary guidelines. A fragmented approach doesn’t yield optimal results, though. 

Diabetes and COVID-19

Addressing this siloed approach has taken on a new urgency as evidence about correlations between diabetes and the coronavirus emerges. Researchers are concerned by a spike in new diabetes diagnoses in patients who have had COVID-19. A similar association was seen following prior coronavirus illness outbreaks, such as the SARS outbreak in 2002.

The pandemic has also sparked a separate concern: rising childhood obesity rates. Sedentary lifestyles, less access to nutritionally balanced meals and fewer organized sports are taking their toll on the waistlines of young people. Childhood obesity is known to be a strong indicator for adult obesity, which increases the risk of Type 2 diabetes and other illnesses.

Regardless of a patient’s age, a patient-centered approach to care can help mitigate these factors. 

A Patient-Centered Approach

Patients benefit when their health care providers collaborate. A patient with diabetes and heart disease, for example, shouldn’t feel overwhelmed trying to merge care plans from an endocrinologist and a cardiologist. Instead, the doctors handling both diseases could connect to develop one cohesive approach to treatment. And now, with dual-benefit medications – those that can help both illnesses – patients may be able to reduce the number medications they take, too.

Efficient care that is governed by treatment guidelines is another pillar of patient-centered care. For this to be effective, however, guidelines must stay current. The American Diabetes Association provides a best practice for this. Its committees vote on guideline changes via email, instead of waiting to convene quarterly or annual meetings. They also push changes out to doctors quickly, facilitating access to the most recent approaches and treatments.

These tactics can eliminate redundancies. They can also save time and often money for patients and doctors alike.  

Despite all its negatives, the pandemic has presented an opportunity to correct the course on treatment for people with diabetes.