On Saturday, I had the unique opportunity to drive down to Miami and present at the meeting of the Greater Miami Area Diabetes Educators. I was asked to present on online and web-based communication tools for health care practitioners and people with diabetes. It is such a huge topic, but I only had an hour so I had to pack a lot in.
The conference participants were given a choice of three different presentations during two different break out sessions, so I actually gave my presentation twice. I knew I would present during the second session a little differently when I was interrupted shortly into my first presentation with the question, “wait, what’s an app?”
After talking to them about the available apps for a short time (I am admittedly not the biggest fan of diabetes related apps, don’t get the point – but had been asked specifically to cover at least the dLife and Medtronic apps)
I moved on to other methods of communication. Let’s talk about e-mail. According to a recent study
, the Center for Studying Health System change found that of the 4200 offices that they looked at, only 6.7% e-mailed their patients. Some (somehow!) did not have the technology – but of those that could, only 19.5% chose to use e-mail. What is the point of taking the time to use extra technology that will let you e-mail your health care provider if your health care provider does not even use e-mail?!
I think I may have blown their minds when I then told them about Dr. Jennifer Dyer
in which she texted encouragement and reminders to her patients. I was warned by one of the conference hosts that I would have a tough audience. He (stereotypically)
warned that because the average age of the audience would be in their mid-fifties, they would be slower to accept a lot of what I was sharing.
I shared with them what I see as the benefits of more real-time communication – quick answers for brief questions, treatment adjustments between appointments, frees up appointment time for other topics, higher accountability. But I also told them that the diabetes community is not ignorant to the challenges in this process: issues of reimbursement, time, standardization, and privacy.
Before my presentation started, I was chatting with one of the early arrivals. I am not exactly sure why she was at the presentation because the first question she posed to me was something along the lines of, “why would I want my patients to go online? People on there will just give them bad information and advice.”
Here’s where the rubber meets the road (pardon the pun). For most of their patients*, they are going online anyway. I gave them a hypothetical situation about a diabetic having a blood sugar in the 300s that she just can’t figure out. She calls her doctor, who of course does not answer, so she leaves a message. The audience chucked in recognition a little bit at that. I told them that right after that, she poses the same issue on twitter, updates her status on facebook, and asks her question on her favorite message board. I asked them how quickly she would start to get responses. They recognized that it would be within seconds.
If that is the case, then they need to (at least) be familiar with the online diabetes community and the places in which they can safely direct their patients. I could not possibly begin to recount them all, but I was able to briefly profile a few different communities.
I finished by reminding them that diabetes can be a very lonely disease. If I had not told them at the beginning of the presentation that I am diabetic, they never would have known. It is great if you are able to have support in person from other diabetics and have 24/7 access to your health care providers, but for a variety of reasons, for a lot of us, that is not possible. Being able to connect online to the larger diabetes community provides a level of support that our health care providers are not in a position to provide.
*There was an interesting mix in the audience. While it is true that a lot of their patients are online, there was also a decent size group in the audience that work at free clinics and other similar offices. A lot of their patients are actually homeless. It would be interesting to hear more about how they think the online communication tools fit with their day-to-day work.
I talked to one of the hosts on my way out after my second presentation, and he said they would get feedback from evaluations to me soon. The immediate feedback the attendees shared with me was positive, but it will be interesting to hear more about their thoughts. I hit some pretty bad traffic on my way home (hence the pictures in this post) due to a gnarly car accident.
I was excited to share about the presentation when I got home and was able to chat virtually with a friend. Although sometimes, it felt like I may have just been talking to an empty room.
Heard some interesting updates from some of the drug/pharmaceutical reps that were in attendance. Will share that in my next post.