When I was diagnosed with diabetes I was truly lucky. Aside from the horrible, near-death experience, in the hospital I quickly learned enough about diabetes management to hit the ground running with my new, complicated lifestyle. I learned the basics of counting carbohydrates, what to look for on a food label, how to test my blood sugar, and most importantly, how to inject myself with insulin. Inpatient diabetes education paid off. Because of this education, I was off to a great start, and did not have to return to the hospital for a long time. I didn’t know at the time how lucky I was to receive this education; I later learned that not everybody receives the same treatment.
In a recent study conducted by Dr. Sara J. Healy of Ohio State University Medical Center, involving a group of over 2,000 patients with an HbA1c of 9% or greater at the time of diagnosis, inpatient diabetes education was provided to 43% of the group. Analyses were conducted at 30-day and 180-day intervals. Dr. Healy reported that hospital readmission was 31% lower for those who received inpatient diabetes education than for those who did not. Although many risk factors influence readmission rates, including age of patients, these numbers demonstrate the benefit of inpatient diabetes education.
Why the Problem Persists
Both insurance companies and medical professionals contribute to the persistence of this problem. Neither party seems to be taking charge of a greater inpatient diabetes education effort. Smaller, localized studies have shown that low numbers of diabetics receive these educational services. Although some diabetes education coverage is required of insurance companies in most states, inpatient education specifically is not a requirement and only a small number of high-risk patients receive it. But, insurance aside, new diabetics would be far more prepared for a healthy lifestyle if taught how to manage the disease at the time of diagnosis rather than through trial and error at home. Doctors and hospitals should proactively inform newly diagnosed patients of the availability of an inpatient diabetes education program. Proactive is better than reactive.
Study numbers are one thing, but consider the value of real-life experience. Did you receive any inpatient diabetes education? Did you avoid readmission to the hospital for over 6 months? Do you currently see a CDE, dietitian, or other diabetes specialist to continue your diabetes education? If the answer to these questions is yes, consider yourself lucky. Even with the expected growth of diabetes cases in the immediate future, somehow an education program has not become standard.