We all need a little diabetes education refresher from time to time. That's a given.
Of course we can make an appointment to see our provider one-on-one, or sign up to attend a group class with an educator or dietitian -- but in-person appointments are often hard to schedule and get to. That's why connections and resources on the internet are so darn helpful! And of course some Certified Diabetes Educators like Gary Scheiner are leading the way with offering web-based sessions to patients around the country, via his Type 1 University program. There was also the Diabetes Daily University web-class launched a couple of years ago, that's unfortunately been discontinued.
Now a type 2 PWD in Florida has an idea to bring even more sessions online to help fellow patients get immediate access to vital information and help when they need it, from the comfort of their own homes. Brad Bellingrath, a 51-year-old video conferencing specialist by trade, is launching a service called dMeetings -- contracting with CDEs, health plans and other experts to offer a series of online courses, plus telephone coaching services to help participants act on what they've learned.
Right now they've got two offerings set up: an eight-session webcast series that you can work through at your own pace, and an ongoing Wellness and Support series that offers participants "two new titles each month" on topics of nutrition, meds, and the workings of diabetes in your body. They also have big plans to add sessions "targeted to younger and older demographics, Spanish-speaking sessions and a four-part series on pre-diabetes."
What we love about this is that it comes from the heart from someone who's personally walked the walk with the type of diabetes that affects millions in this country.
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While current dMeetings are aimed at the type 2 demographic for the most part, Brad says they could also look at packaging content that's specifically relevant to type 1 PWDs in the future.
Diagnosed about seven years ago with type 2, Brad says he wasn't managing his diabetes well at first and it took a while for him to get his head around his diagnosis and what he needed. Searching locally, Brad was surprised to find little help outside of the occasional support group that came and went or really didn't meet often.
"I wanted a support system beyond that first diabetes self-management education (DSME) class that you take right out of the gate," he said. "I needed to be in a group with some like-encouragement and have that support when I needed it, but there was no ongoing, comprehensive program with that combination of education, encouragement, and the latest topic of the day."
Brad's Global Presentations LLC business records and provides conferences and event access to clients online. With this relevant experience and platform in place, he came up with the idea for "dMeetings," and started the program as part of his business about seven months ago. Right now it's part-time, but he does hope it can become more of a full-time focus soon.
Looking at the materials and agendas, the current content is useful, but very rudimentary information like what diabetes is, and how to handle basic nutrition and blood sugar tasks. Instructors do include some members of the D-Community, such as PWD comedian Chelcie Rice. People can ask questions during the webcasts, and those questions may get answered live during the session.
Watch this long-ish video explaining the program. (Not sure about the "blinking and glaring" comment in there?)
Right now participants have to pay out-of-pocket for this service, with the fees running anywhere from $149 to $329 a year per person depending on the amount of services used (see details in their PDF brochure).
This is a major challenge, of course, because as Diabetes Daily discovered with their program, non-reimbursed health education programs are a very precarious business model: Will enough patients pay out-of-pocket when we have so many other cost burdens on us already?
What Brad hopes will make his program stand out is that he's working directly with health plans and even large employers who'll be interested in rolling out these D-education webcasts as a covered employee health benefit. In his quest to find some "anchor clients," he's currently talking with some local organizations in Florida,and even conducted a successful "soft launch" at a Worksite Wellness Conference in Jacksonville, FL, in June. Brad's also thinking of approaching online pharmacies or benefits managers, he said.
They've also created a video that's basically a pitch to partners and investors.
While his concept is still evolving, one idea Brad's considering is to weave in more PWD-to-PWD interaction for those who want to connect with others through the webcasts. So instead of just the "talking heads" at the virtual front of the room, participants could also meet each other if so desired.
To me, that would be a beneficial aspect that might make me more interested in participating in a D-education webcast session.
And what do established diabetes educators think of this?
We reached out to CDE and author Hope Warshaw, a friend of ours who's very vocal in her support of the Diabetes Online Community (DOC), and innovative ways to connect PWDs to educational resources online.
"I truly think it's the wave of the future for both weight management and diabetes management," she said. "People need what I refer to as 'chronic and continuous support' both from their providers and the DOC in order to succeed. It seems like this is the way diabetes education and support is going."
We think so too, Hope, but it's tough to know what the market will be for something like this with all the change happening in the healthcare world. Obviously, there's a need for more accessible diabetes education, and it's very exciting to see fellow PWDs using their talents to offer something that could really help.
As to the bigger healthcare reform picture and how this fits into the changing HCP reimbursement matrix, we'll just have to wait and see...