How Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) Technology Can Alleviate Language Barriers in Diabetes Care
Contributor: Dr. Rocio Harbison, MD, FACE
I’m an endocrinologist with 19 years of experience treating patients with diabetes, and one of the most important lessons I’ve learned is that communication is key.
Most of you know that people with diabetes live with the heavy burden of making choices and taking actions every single day to manage blood glucose levels. Thankfully, advancements in technology have come incredibly far, giving way to tools like continuous glucose monitors (CGM), automated insulin delivery systems, and more. But for Spanish-speaking populations, there is often one more barrier to overcome in getting the care they need: finding physicians, resources, and technology in their native language.
And as a native Spanish speaker living in Texas, I am overly familiar with these patients and their needs. Communication, in their native language, between a clinician and their patients is essential for confidently managing diabetes.
Over the years I’ve noticed Spanish speakers often underuse diabetes technology. Therefore, it’s important as a healthcare provider that I explore barriers to adherence, health literacy, perception of use of technology, and family support during clinic visits. When discussing diabetes management with my Spanish-speaking patients, I consider how behavior change can impact not only my patients, but the family dynamics.
Of course, health and technology literacy can be intimidating, but the reality is that most people with diabetes, when presented with the devices in a way that feels easy to use, are open to the use of such technologies.
In my opinion, access to educational materials and technologies in their native language can lead to an increased participation in diabetes self-management. I have witnessed the positive impact in glucose control, prevention of hypoglycemia, and quality of life that the access and use of diabetes technologies and medications have had in my patients with diabetes.
Leaders in diabetes technology, like Dexcom, have seen how important it is for their users to receive glucose information in a language that’s native to them, leading to more features that are tailored to this population. This is a small yet a crucial step toward improving health equity for Spanish-speakers with diabetes.
Even though there are still challenges that Latinos with diabetes face as they navigate their health conditions, receiving their health information in Spanish - with the only translation needed being how to translate that information into actionable next steps - is a win for both patients and healthcare providers like me. And it’s a win for the backbone of our relationship: communication between patients and providers. I can only hope that the future of diabetes management continues to be inclusive of everyone who lives with this condition.
Dr. Rocio Harbison is an endocrinologist with over 19 years of experience treating patients with diabetes in Houston, Texas. Dr. Harbison holds several accolades, including Top Doctors by Houstonia Magazine, Texas Monthly's 2015 Rising Star, and Women of the Year in Science by Sucesos Newspaper & Solo Mujeres Magazine Houston. Dr. Harbison's focus is on overall well-being, health, and wellness with an emphasis on balanced and healthy nutrition options, exercise, and utilizing technology to improve patient's health. Today, you can find her working at her practice, Advanced Endocrinology and Diabetes Clinic.
Dexcom is a 2022 National Strategic Partner of DiabetesSisters. DiabetesSisters shares information they provide that is useful to our community; however, the relationship does not influence the decisions or opinions of DiabetesSisters, its governing board or staff.