Connecticut Orthopaedic Institute

Online Diabetes Education Connects Patients During Pandemic

The University of Texas Medical Branch is a public academic health science center in Galveston, Texas. It is part of the University of Texas System. UTMB includes the oldest medical school in Texas and has about 11,000 employees.

Challenge:

The COVID-19 pandemic forced changes in the way Diabetes Educators at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston interact with their patients—but changes were coming either way as department leaders were already planning to expand and overhaul the program with a dramatically expanded curriculum.

The transition from in-person classes to virtual learning and follow-up over a full year meant that educators had to find ways to engage patients remotely while developing a consistent curriculum. They turned to HealthClips Online.

Background:

The coronavirus pandemic interrupted every facet of American medical care—including the ongoing education critical to help patients with diabetes make good health decisions and manage their disease. In April 2020, facing the prospect of tens of thousands of patients with diabetes skipping in-person classes, the Center for Medicare Services (CMS) issued guidance that remote diabetes education could be billed under Part B coverage.

While the new CMS guidance opened the door to transforming to remote diabetes education, there were still pressing technological issues to solve for health systems that had long relied on slide shows and classrooms. At the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, Project Director of the Diabetes Prevention and Care Programs, Hanaa Sallam, MD, PhD, CDCES, found a good solution: HealthClips Online.

The Patient Experience:

HealthClips Online offers a customizable online platform with both video and print education. Subscribers not only gain access to evidence-based, guideline-compliant education; they also have the option to create or assign playlists that target specific areas, like how to use an insulin pump or healthy eating with diabetes.

“We know patients with diabetes are vulnerable,” said Dr. Sallam. “The way it used to be before COVID, we had in-person classes and would use slides to initiate a conversation with the patient. We are now launching a new intensive one-year diabetes self-management education and support program for patients with diabetes supported by the Texas Department of State Health Services. This program will feature live online classes and lifestyle coaching for a full year. We believe this kind of intensive education will be more beneficial, especially in the time of COVID.”

Unlike previous diabetes management classes held in groups with a live instructor, the new program heavily relies on virtual education with an educator/lifestyle coach. Over the year-long program, educators will help patients learn how to manage their disease, set goals, and follow through. Noting that videos are “short, concise, and to the point,” Dr. Sallam and her team use them to kick-start teaching sessions.

Product Highlights:

HealthClips Online offers several features that Dr. Sallam is relying on to make the new program a success:

  • Videos and print material are accessible on any internet-enabled device, including phones, tablets, and desktop computers, and can be shared via video and telehealth platforms.
  • Educators can send a link to content via email, so patients can watch the videos before or after classes.
  • The links do not expire, so patients have repeat access to video education if they want to watch it again.
  • Print materials can be printed out and saved for reference.

Besides its convenience, Dr. Sallam was also attracted to HealthClips for its credibility. Thanks to rigorous and regular clinical review, all the information presented in HealthClips is current and accurate. “I also love that it’s available in Spanish,” she said.

“I love that I can give this link to patients, and they can view it at their convenience. It’s like having an educator at home.”

There’s little question that the COVID-19 pandemic scrambled all types of hospital-based education, pushing everything from classes to consults to follow-up appointments online. And while Dr. Sallam and her team are looking forward to the return of “normal,” there are some changes she hopes to keep even after regular in-person classes can resume.

“I like to have the classes live online,” she said. “It made it very convenient for our patients. They are very appreciative of having HealthClips video links as a great resource. Once the pandemic is over, we will maintain online classes either way.”


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