Written by Breanna Hardy
With a growing need for diabetes care in the Central Valley, a local endocrinologist has developed a telehealth program to help residents manage their disease.
Hanford-based endocrinologist Dr. Prem Sahasranam, who has been practicing for 14 years, is offering a telehealth education program called My Diabetes Tutor.
One out of every two Central Valley residents live with high blood sugar, but have never seen a specialist for diabetes care and education. According to a 2016 California Health Interview Survey, 46% of all adults in the state are estimated to have prediabetes or undiagnosed diabetes. That number is growing.
He attributes the growing disease numbers to obesity and genetic predisposition. One-third of the U.S. population has prediabetes, and without intervention, these individuals are at risk of developing diabetes, he said.
“There are very few diabetes educators – you could count with your fingers – working in the Valley and many are going to retire in the next few years,” Sahasranam said.
Sahasranam said that there is a shortage of providers for the number of people living with diabetes in the Valley. The providers are limited by time to provide a complete education to patients. My Diabetes Tutor is able to bring educators from other parts of the country to teach our Valley patients about living with the disease.
“People struggle with diabetes self-management, which can lead to high blood sugar over time and poor outcomes,” said Sahasranam. “Or they rely on their health care provider for help, but providers may lack the time to educate them, and there may be no other resources to help them.”
The education component that patients benefit from the most is nutrition.
My Diabetes Tutor is the first statewide telehealth diabetes education program in California to receive national accreditation by the Association of Diabetes Care and Education Specialists. The program provides five one-hour sessions about Type 1 and 2 diabetes, and diabetes in pregnancy. The clinic will also add technology support, and insulin pump and sensor education and support in July.
The program operates by internet connection and communicates through a HIPAA-compliant platform. It has 18 educators with multiple languages including Spanish, Hindi, Gujarati and Mandarin.
“Telehealth is a convenient and effective way to help patients manage their diabetes from the comfort of their home, with the peace of mind that comes from knowing the providers are trained specifically to address the concerns of diabetes,” he Sahasranam said. “We are seeing patients lower their HbA1c thanks to the right education. It’s never too late to take action.”