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May 15

Empowering Patients: The Art of Crafting a Tailored Diabetes Education Plan

Patient education plays a crucial role in diabetes management by empowering individuals with the knowledge, skills, and confidence needed to effectively self-manage their condition, prevent complications, and improve their quality of life. An effective patient education plan will highlight the importance of medication adherence and lifestyle modifications, such as diet and exercise, that are vital to diabetic patients staying healthy with a good quality of life.

In this blog post, we will discuss the steps to develop a patient education plan that will benefit those in your practice impacted by diabetes, allowing for improved health outcomes. Let’s get started.

What is a patient education plan?

A patient education plan is a structured approach designed to provide patients with information and resources to help them understand and manage their health conditions effectively. Typically, creating a patient education plan involves healthcare professionals working with patients to share knowledge about a diagnosis, treatment options, medications, lifestyle modifications, and preventive measures.

A comprehensive patient education plan will often include the following components:

  • A basic understanding of diabetes, including the differences between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.
  • A conversation between the patient and provider that is easy for the patient to understand and create a joint visual that the patient can refer to and share with family members after the visit.
  • An assessment, or a provider’s understanding of the patient’s condition, health literacy level, and readiness to learn more.
  • Some collaborative goal setting that is designed to improve the patient’s health outcomes.
  • Education materials, including online resources, visual aids, or multimedia presentations that better explain the patient’s condition and treatment plan.

About the author,
Crystal Stanton

Crystal is a Digital Marketing Specialist at Henry Schein MicroMD. Content creation, social media management, and SEO optimization are just a few of her areas of concentration as she seeks to educate clients and prospects alike about the simple, customizable, and connected solutions we offer at MicroMD.

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Patient-centered education plans are significant in empowering individuals with diabetes. Diabetes requires ongoing self-management, including monitoring blood sugar levels, adhering to medication regimens, making dietary adjustments, exercising regularly, and managing stress. Patient education provides individuals with the knowledge and skills necessary to effectively manage their condition on a daily basis, leading to improved health outcomes.

Without sufficient patient education care plans, individuals with diabetes can face a number of challenges. One such challenge is poor blood sugar control. A lack of understanding about the relationship between diet, medication, physical activity, and blood sugar levels can lead to uncontrolled diabetes. Without proper education, patients may struggle to maintain target blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of high blood sugar or low blood sugar, which can cause immediate health problems and long-term complications.

Another challenge is an increased risk of complications in general. Uncontrolled diabetes significantly increases the risk of developing long-term complications, such as atherosclerosis leading to cardiovascular disease, neuropathy, and diabetic ulcer to name a few. Without proper education on how to manage their condition, individuals may be unaware of the importance of regular monitoring, medication adherence, and lifestyle modifications in preventing these complications.

Finally, there is the challenge of financial burdens. Inadequate education about managing diabetes may lead to increased healthcare costs due to frequent hospitalizations, emergency room visits, and complications. Additionally, individuals may incur costs associated with purchasing unnecessary or ineffective products or treatments due to misinformation or lack of understanding.

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Healthcare providers play a vital role in bridging the knowledge gap for patients through building a care plan for patient education. First, they assess and individualize a plan by assessing each individual’s unique needs, preferences, health literacy level, cultural background, and readiness to learn. They then tailor the education plan accordingly based on their knowledge and understanding of their patient, ensuring it’s relevant, comprehensible, and engaging.

Next, providers offer accurate, evidence-based information about diabetes, including its causes, symptoms, complications, and management strategies. They explain medical terminology in layman’s terms and provide educational materials such as brochures, pamphlets, videos, illustrations, or online resources to supplement verbal discussions.

Finally, providers support decision-making and problem-solving by teaching patients how to identify and address common challenges in diabetes management, such as blood sugar fluctuations, hypoglycemia, hyperglycemia, illness, or travel. They empower patients to develop problem-solving skills, set realistic goals, and make informed decisions in collaboration with their healthcare team.

Assessing Patient Needs

When getting started with a patient education plan, it’s vital for providers to understand the patient’s preferences, as these will guide which education methods and materials are chosen. First, determine how your patient prefers to learn. Then focus on what’s most important for your patient to know. Be attentive to your patient’s concerns, as it’s possible you will have to address fears before they can learn anything. Understand your patient’s limits and resist the urge to give them more information than they can handle at any one time. Arrange the information in a way that makes it easy to understand. Finally, remember that you may need to make adjustments based on environmental factors and your patient’s condition.

When gathering information about your patient’s needs there are a few methods you can use. Patient surveys can help providers gain valuable insights into patient education needs, improve the relevance and effectiveness of educational materials, and ultimately enhance patient outcomes and satisfaction. If you prefer to assess patient needs verbally, an interview with the patient can be best, allowing you to talk out their condition, how they feel they learn best, and what they feel they need help with. Finally, reviewing a patient’s medical history is another important way to gain useful insights that will help in creating a patient education plan.

It can be helpful, when assessing patient needs for patient education, to send surveys through an online patient communication tool. Patient needs can also be assessed during intake, when providers can gain information about a patient’s medical history, lifestyle, and also ask questions specific to how a patient may prefer to receive education materials. To obtain the best information, using a digital intake solution is often preferable, as patients aren’t put on the spot as they are when filling out forms in the waiting room. Providing them the opportunity to fill out their intake forms on their own timetable can allow them to find the information they need so that you will end up with a complete health picture.

Setting Clear Objectives: What to Consider When Creating a Patient Education Plan

When creating a patient education care plan, it’s important to set SMART objectives.

  • Specific: Objectives should be detailed and specific so that there is a clear understanding of what is needed.
  • Measurable: Ideally, the objectives set should be measurable so that success can be determined.
  • Achievable: The objectives must not be incredibly difficult, but rather start with something that should allow the patient to achieve success, encouraging them to continue.
  • Relevant: In the case of a patient care plan for diabetes, the objectives should be relevant to the control and management of diabetes.
  • Time-bound: Have a time period in mind for when these objectives should be completed.

With this in mind, here are a few sample objectives related to diabetes:

Objective 1: Physical Activity and Exercise

  • Stress the importance of regular physical activity in managing diabetes and maintaining and improving overall health.
  • Help the patient develop an exercise plan that fits with their lifestyle and includes strength training, aerobic activities, and flexibility exercises.
  • Discuss strategies for staying active, even with physical limitations or a busy schedule.
  • Perhaps create the objective that the patient get 30 minutes of aerobic exercise a minimum of three times per week and maintain this consistently before a follow-up appointment in three months.

Objective 2: Medication Management

  • Explain the importance of adhering to prescribed medication regimens and the potential risks of non-adherence.
  • Teach the patient how to properly administer oral medications and insulin injections.
  • Discuss the potential side effects of diabetes medications and when to contact your healthcare provider.
  • This objective could be for the patient to review detailed resources regarding their specific medications and to adhere to their treatment plan without fail between this appointment and their next.

Objective 3: Monitoring and Preventing Complications

  • Educate the patient about the potential long-term complications of diabetes, such as retinopathy, neuropathy, and cardiovascular disease.
  • Teach self-care practices to prevent complications, such as foot care, eye exams, and dental hygiene.
  • Encourage regular medical check-ups and screenings to monitor overall health and detect complications early.
  • This objective could contain specifics regarding when the patient should see different members of their care team and what symptoms they should look for that could indicate a potential complication and the steps they should take if they notice one of those symptoms.

It’s important to remember that specific objectives help to guide the development of educational materials by indicating what information the patient will need to be successful. If a patient has objectives related to blood glucose monitoring, you will want to provide educational materials that detail how to properly measure blood glucose and what certain readings would indicate. If a patient has objectives related to medication management, perhaps the administration of insulin, you will need to provide educational materials that describe how to properly administer insulin, including how much and how frequently.

What is visual communication and point-of-care media?

One important consideration for providers when choosing point-of-care media is ensuring that the materials they choose are accessible, engaging, easy to understand, and culturally sensitive. Accessibility, in the context of patient education materials, refers to ensuring that the information provided is easily available and understandable to all individuals, regardless of their physical or cognitive abilities, language proficiency, or cultural background. Remember, patients want access to their specific, applicable patient education wherever they are and whenever they want it. Engaging means that the media provided captures the patient’s interest in such a way that they consume and internalize it. Culturally sensitive refers to tailoring the material to cultural norms, beliefs, and preferences of the target audience, being mindful of religious practices, dietary preferences, and other factors that can influence how the material is received and understood.

There are a number of different formats for educational content, including brochures, infographics, 3D models, and interactive tools, each with their own benefits depending on a patient’s learning style. Using patient education at the point of care is a growing trend. Patients expect a more thorough understanding of their condition and treatment options. Providers want to give them this, but need tools that assist in explaining and documenting their conversations.

One tool is the Visual Consult, which is a feature offered in the MicroMD platform. It has 3D anatomical models and 2D illustrations that can be used to explain complex medical information visually, making it easier to understand. For example, many patients hear about how diabetes affects the pancreas, but don’t know where it is or what it does. The provider can access the 3D model, explain what it is, draw on it, add a note and send the completed picture to the patient. The same can be done using a 2D flat picture. The key is using the visuals, whether 3D or 2D, to enhance the conversation and provide the resulting documentation. Animations and video clips can be prescribed from the Visual Consult so patients can view them and share them with family members at a later date. Use of visual content enhances the communication and makes a care plan more effective.

Implementing the Patient Education Plan

There are a variety of strategies providers can use to deliver patient education materials effectively. One option is to engage in an in-person or telemedicine consultation, where you can bring up point-of-care media including medical visuals and discuss your patient’s condition and the information they need verbally. Another option is to distribute educational materials through your practice’s patient portal, allowing patients to view the information at their own convenience. You can also use another type of mobile application, even something like two-way texting, to get information to your patients. It’s also important to remember that these options aren’t mutually exclusive and you can use any combination of them, or even all of them, if it benefits your patients.

Once you’ve provided your patients with the educational materials, it’s important to bolster patient engagement by continuing to provide support and reinforcement in such a way that it enhances patient understanding and treatment adherence. When trying to track a patient education plan, particularly with patients living with diabetes, follow-up appointments are crucial. If your practice has automated appointment reminders, you can efficiently ensure your patients know when their appointments are so that they don’t miss necessary care.

Evaluating and Adjusting

Once the patient education plan has been implemented, it’s vital that providers keep an eye on how effective the plan has been by listening to patient feedback, monitoring health outcomes, and looking for changes in rates of adherence. You can collect feedback from patients in a wide variety of ways, including:

  • Issuing surveys that allow patients to directly comment on how helpful they have found the educational materials you’ve provided them.
  • Directly discussing the patient’s feelings about their educational plan during a follow-up appointment, making note of what they felt was helpful as well as what didn’t work.
  • Observing changes in your patients and allowing that to serve as feedback, whether those changes be in how they discuss their condition with you, how they are managing their condition, or what their outcomes have been.

Depending on what you learn from patient feedback, it’s important to make adjustments in their plan, remembering that these plans are dynamic and will change as needed to continue to improve the patient’s outcomes over time.

Patient education plans are vital to the successful care of patients with diabetes. This is why MicroMD is proud to offer the Visual Consult, a comprehensive tool that provides access to multi-media content integrated with MicroMD EMR and designed to be used at the point of care, as well as shared to patients through tools such as a patient portal or the communication functions available in MMDengage, MicroMD’s patient engagement solution

Visual Consult provides a full library of interactive medical visuals including 2D images, 3D models, and video animations that engage and educate patients with the goal of improving understanding and care outcomes, starting at $10 a month.

For more information about Visual Consult or to get started, visit our Visual Consult subscription page or call 1-800-624-8832.

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