By Catherine Rice, Vice President of Marketing/Outreach
The risk of uncontrolled diabetes is great. It can take a toll on nearly every organ in the body, including the heart, blood vessels, eyes, kidneys, nerves, gastrointestinal tract, gums and teeth. It can cause many complications such as blindness, renal failure resulting in dialysis, etc. And unfortunately, diabetes is prevalent among patients seeking care at Health Partnership Clinic (HPC).
Of HPC’s more than 12,000 patients, nine percent have a diagnosis of diabetes.
According to Gwen Wagner, DNP, APRN, Adult Nurse Practitioner, Health Partnership established a High-Risk Diabetes Clinic (HRDC) in August 2018 to address the need for more comprehensive care. Currently, 125 patients are participating. The clinic operates on Mondays and is open to any patient with an A1C greater than or equal to nine.
“Our diabetes program focuses on providing education from a diabetes specialist, lifestyle counseling and mental health support from our Behavioral Health clinician, along with medication management by a medical provider,” Dr. Wagner adds. “This team approach, along with buy-in from patients, creates an environment that encourages and celebrates the patients’ journey to control their diabetes. Eighty percent of our HRDC patients have seen an improvement in their A1C. The average starting A1C was 10.6 percent and today, it’s 8.9.”
Recently, seven patients were highlighted for making great strides in controlling their diabetes.
The poster above (in English and Spanish) was created and posted in the Olathe waiting room. “It is always important to celebrate the accomplishments of our patients, and our patients agreed to share their results with others who may be challenged by diet, exercise and maintaining a healthy A1C.,” Dr. Wagner says.
Since opening, more than half of the patients’ A1Cs have fallen below nine percent, with an average individual decrease of approximately 1.7 percent.
An A1C is sometimes referred to as the “three-month blood sugar” as it reflects the average blood sugar the patient has had over the past three months. A normal A1C is below 5.7 percent. The goal for a person with diabetes per the American Diabetes Association is to have an A1C of seven or lower.
“In 2019, the overall percentage of Health Partnership patients with diabetes who are considered “uncontrolled” (an A1C greater than nine) has dropped from 43 percent to 31 percent since the clinic opened,” she adds. “We’re proud of our patients. Their hard work has resulted in improved quality of life.”
The three goals of the HRDC:
- To improve lifestyle management and address psycho-social barriers to diabetes care.
- To educate and support diabetes self-care, particularly insulin administration.
- To remove financial barriers to obtaining insulin for self-administration and diabetes treatment.
“Helping patients control their diabetes is not as simple as just providing medication or telling someone not to eat sugary foods,” Dr. Wagner says. “Diabetes can be a complex and multifaceted disease and patients need not only medication but education, counseling, support and self-management tools so that they can become experts in controlling their own blood sugars.”
Medications for diabetes can be very expensive for those both with and without insurance. At HPC, an assistance program called the 340 B plan provides affordable medications through AuBurn Pharmacy and participating Walmarts.
A shout out to the HRDC team including Jessica Grate, Medical Assistant, Cecilia Ponce, LSCSW, Behavioral Health Clinician, and Dr. Wagner, Nurse Practitioner.