One of the major health current health concerns is the diabetes epidemic; diabetes is the 7th leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC),more than 30 million people have diabetes (9.4% of the US population) and 84.1 million adults have prediabetes (33.9% of the population). The American Diabetes Association highlights that the biggest risk factors for prediabetes are:
- A body mass index (BMI) over 25
- Being over 45 years old
- Having an immediate relative with type 2 diabetes
Also, people who exercise less than three times per week, those who carry extra weight around the abdomen, and women who have had gestational diabetes are also more likely to develop prediabetes.
Rural areas of the U.S. have a 17% higher rate of diabetes than urban areas. The CDC has named 644 counties in 15 states the “diabetes belt”and they are mostly rural portions of the Southeast and Midwest. Why is this the case? Rural populations tend to have lifestyle habits that lead to these risk factors more so than urban populations. Rural areas also have limited access to healthcare and education due to:
- Availability of physicians and specialists
- Literacy rates
- Socio-economic factors
- Access to reliable and affordable transportation
- Access to health insurance
Patients with prediabetes or diabetes need to be educated and actively monitored in order to decrease the chances of their condition worsening. Many are referred to a Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Service (DSMES). As an integral part of diabetes care, DSMES help patients achieve glycemic control and successful outcomes by providing patients with the knowledge and skillset needed for effective self-care through informed decision making, problem solving, and collaboration with the health care team.
Patients – especially in rural areas – can benefit from using a virtual care communication platform to access DSMES. Using video technology, patients can participate in virtual visits and understand how to sustain behavioral changes as they confront challenges due to aging, lifestyle changes, and progression of the disease process.
Virtual visits can help drive compliance and lead to better outcomes as DSMES support patients with understanding and undertaking the management, prevention, and lifestyle changes needed to improve outcomes and quality of life.
In addition to using video technology to engage patients, DSMES can use email, text, and secure messaging to send timely reminders to patients to monitor their vital signs and adhere to the prescribed treatment plan. In terms of lifestyle changes, messaging related to meal planning, exercise reminders, etc. can be pushed to the patients on a regular basis.
DSMES are critical to patients being able to leverage the knowledge and support needed to manage their condition. With a virtual care communication platform, DSMES can help patients conveniently self-manage their condition from the comfort of their home.