Earlier this month, Anna (Norton) and I traveled to Orlando, FL along with 2,500 CDEs to attend the 41st Annual AADE Conference. The theme of this year’s conference was “Refresh. Recharge, Renew.” While there were noticeably fewer people in attendance, those who were there seemed to be engaged and enjoying the event. When we arrived, Anna made her way to the Exhibit Hall where had a booth this year (the first time since 2009!). Since she spent the majority of her time there, she’s going to share her observations in a separate post.
Overall, CDEs (Certified Diabetes Educators) have always been among DiabetesSisters’ biggest supporters. They just “get” what we are about and why an organization like DiabetesSisters is valuable to their patients. Let’s just say that they did not let us down at this year’s conference! The hot topic that seemed to be on everyone’s mind this year was the impact of the Affordable Care Act on the American healthcare system. In fact, that’s what the opening general session on Wednesday was about: “The Future of Healthcare Reform”. Although some CDEs voiced frustration about the healthcare system, reimbursement issues, and employment issues, very little frustration was voiced about patients themselves. The CDEs in attendance seemed to be really focused on educating and even supporting (when possible) their patients with diabetes. I was pleased to see that there were two sessions on the value of social media for patients and one session on helping teens transition to college—all of which were led by well-known diabetes advocates- Bennet Dunlap, Jeff Hitchcock, Kerri Sparling, Christina Roth. Aside from the standard information shared at AADE – how to become a CDE, lifestyle modifications, Diabetes Self-Management Education Programs, etc., two emerging trends in the field of diabetes education became evident to me: 1- the changing hierarchy among diabetes educators and 2- telehealth as a means to reach larger numbers of people with diabetes.
First, I was somewhat, but not totally, surprised to learn that AADE has introduced a new level of diabetes educator- known as the Associate Diabetes Educator (ADE). This is essentially a classification for uncertified medical workers, including, but not limited to peer counselors, health coaches, community health workers, and health navigators. I am not totally surprised to hear about this change because this is an emerging trend that I have heard about at various meetings over the last couple of years. There has been an ongoing rumbling about the ever-increasing number of people with diabetes in the US, the lacking number of CDEs to handle the large number, and the need to find a way to utilize lay health workers to fill the gap. Naturally, CDEs feel a bit threatened and territorial about their jobs. The concern among CDEs seems to be being replaced and a diminishing of the value of their certification. This is completely understandable to me. What is left to be seen is how AADE engages with those at the “newly minted” ADE level and how they bridge the gap that exists between ADEs and CDEs. Without AADE leadership leading the charge to encourage acceptance at all levels of the Diabetes Educator hierarchy from the very beginning of its existence, it will be a long, hard road…..similar to the difficulty we now face in erasing the line that has existed between t1s and t2s for decades. It’s much easier to start out with the a collaborative message than to go back decades later and try to bring about an attitude of collaboration among two groups that were taught to disregard each other from the beginning.
Secondly, telehealth is a service that allows patients and providers to exchange health information through electronic communication. Over the last couple of years, the growth rates of telehealth have almost exploded. Why? Well, as with everything else….it comes down to cost- among other things. This kind of visit saves money, is convenient for patients in rural areas, and gives patients access to providers that they might not otherwise have access to. An example of telehealth would be a person in the rural part of the state going to their local health center for an appointment with a physician in which the physician talks to the patient via video and essentially conducts the entire visit via video. Although my initial reaction to this was negative, the more I have thought about it (and the growing number of people with diabetes who aren’t receiving the education/treatment they need), the more the concept has grown on me. I have had participated in many valuable Skype and Google Hangout calls and I could see how it would be helpful to talk to a physician via one of these programs if I lived far away or if the doctor had a long waitlist to see him/her.
That’s it for me for this month. I hope to see many of you at the upcoming Weekend for Women Conference in Los Angeles, CA on October 24-25, 2014. Reserve your spot before the price increase goes into effect!