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Diabetes University numbers soar with telehealth as an option

Tyler (June 1, 2023) —  As the number of people diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes continues to climb in the United States, so does the need to educate them about the disease and how to manage it.

UT Health East Texas is making progress toward that education through its Diabetes University program, which has been offered via telehealth for a little over a year for those not wanting an in-person clinic visit. In that time, the number of people enrolling in the program has increased by 41 percent.

“I think the biggest thing is it has given patients in our rural areas access to our diabetes education. That’s where we’ve really made a difference,” Wright said. “Not everybody is able to or necessarily wants to drive to Tyler for these services.”

Diabetes University is an outpatient diabetes education program at UT Health East Texas that meets the National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education and has received a certificate of recognition from the American Diabetes Association. A physician referral is required for insurance to cover it, and patients now have the option to take the course through telehealth or at the Tyler clinic.

The program offers diabetes self-management training, where patients learn about meal planning, blood sugar monitoring, prevention of diabetes-related complications, strategies for adding physical activity, information about how their medications work and tips for how to reach their goals.

“Typically the visits last an hour to an hour and a half, and it really helps you put all the pieces together,” Wright said.

Also offered is Medical Nutrition Therapy, where patients can meet with a registered dietitian to gain advanced meal-planning skills and a personalized menu based on their own food preferences.

Wright said she has been pleasantly surprised by the uptick in Diabetes University enrollment since telehealth became available in April 2022.

“We find that even our older patients embrace it very well because they’re in their own home, so they’re more relaxed, and they can go to their pantry and grab food labels and ask us questions about food they’re eating,” Wright said. “It feels a little more intimate because it’s more of a home setting and more of a phone call. It’s less formal, and it feels more conversational and less clinical. Even though you are providing education, you are providing a treatment plan and intervention.”

Wright said she would encourage anyone wanting to gain a personalized plan for managing their diabetes, especially those who are newly diagnosed, to talk to their physician about a referral to Diabetes University.

“Whatever is going on in their lives with their diabetes, we’re going to meet them where they are. We’re going to help them. We’re going to personalize the diabetes plan to whatever their situation is and really try to help them,” she said. “There’s never any judgment involved. Whatever is going on, we want to work with them, and we never want to make anyone feel bad about what they’re doing. We just want to help them.”

About UT Health East Texas

UT Health East Texas provides care to thousands of patients each year through an extensive regional network that includes 10 hospitals, more than 50 clinics, the Olympic Plaza Tower, 13 regional rehabilitation facilities, two freestanding emergency centers, regional home health services covering 41 counties, an EMS fleet of more than 50 ambulances and four helicopters, and a comprehensive seven-trauma center care network, including the region’s only Level 1 trauma facility.

As a partner with The University of Texas System, UT Health East Texas is uniquely positioned to provide patients with access to leading-edge research and clinical therapies while training and educating the next generation of physicians and other health professionals. The nationally recognized UT System also includes The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, as well as three other major university medical centers located throughout the state.

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