Diabetic Supplies:

How to Help Younger Patients Comply with Diabetes Programs

DiabeticTreating diabetes patients essentially comes down to one word: compliance. Patients need to watch their eating habits, monitor their conditions, and take insulin. However, it is one thing to ask adults to do that. Children, on the other hand, pose an entirely unique challenge.

For starters, pediatric patients are children, and what child wants to manage their medical condition, when they could be playing with their friends? Trying to help instill the right habits in children can seem like an almost insurmountable challenge. An analogy can be drawn between managing asthma therapy compliance: A child will feel tied down by his or her devices, which can be difficult to use, or stick to their treatment regimen, and not want to break away from their playground activities to take care of themselves.

But even when kids develop the sorts of self-discipline and good habits that will help them manage their diabetes and comply with their treatment programs, there is another distraction that trumps all others: the need to fit in.

Sticking out like a Sore Finger

The last thing a child wants to do is stick out, especially in school. If their condition or treatment program sets them apart in some way, children can often act against their own best interest and not take care of managing their condition. As a result, they could avoid using their glucometer or taking their insulin.

This can have serious consequences. Children can sometimes not want to stick out to the point where they won’t detect low blood sugar or address it by grabbing a quick snack. This can drive low blood sugar down even further to the point where the child risks hypoglycemia. (Which is a surprise, given that probably the best way to stick out at school is to incur a serious reaction and have to be rush to the nurse’s office for a shot of glucogen and be removed from school in an ambulance; not exactly low-profile).

The bottom line is that young patients need to prioritize managing and treating their diabetes. Fortunately, through a strong partnership between physicians, parents, HME providers and the young patient, a program can developed that helps the young patient comply with treatment without feeling self conscious.

Young patients must “own” their condition and work with their physician in terms of treatment expectations, as well as developing a customized treatment program that will be tailored to the patients environment and circumstances. This can be a big help if the program can tailored to a child’s needs. For instance, the program can be customized to have more lax glycemic control when the child is engaged in more socially “stressful” situations.

Keep it Simple, Subtle

Fortunately, the right DME can help a great deal to help young patients maintain that “ownership” over their condition. A key aspect is to keep it simple. If young patients don’t feel tied down by taking a reading, this can go a long way toward getting them to tear themselves away from that favorite activity, or to get them to overcome any social concerns they might have about managing their condition.

In this regard, many advances made in diabetes equipment can help HME providers offer a range of solutions to young patients and their families and physicians to help those young patients keep their conditions less visible. For instance, autocoding is a huge benefit in that it automatically reads a test strip without the young patient having to manually set a glucometer to get an accurate reading.

Glucometers that require a smaller test sample are a boon toward easing any social fears a young patient might have. A smaller sample helps the patient take a reading as quickly as possible, which helps them be more discrete.

Another handy feature is the ability to run silently. Again, a patient will be able to keep his or her condition and its management on the QT if his or her glucometer doesn’t beep or make any other noises when he or she is using it. Moreover, some glucose monitors are even designed to look like other items, such as MP3 players or cell phones, just to help them that much less conspicuous.

Perhaps one of the greatest strides made in the advancement of blood monitoring are continuous glucose monitors. By constantly and automatically monitoring blood glucose, CGMs provide almost constant feedback as to whether the patient’s blood sugar is in an acceptable range, and can act as a warning by alarming the patient when it is too low.

This helps the patient not only by making the routine maintenance of their condition a snap, but it also helps them get a larger perspective in terms of trends in their blood sugar. Their doctor can help them see when they have regular dips, and thusly predict when they might need to eat a snack to prepare for an activity, such as recess or sports practice, without having fears of having too high a blood sugar.

To stay on top of the options that will help young patients better comply with their treatment, HME providers must stay on top of the latest diabetes equipment offerings, such as GCMs. This will help them better interface with physicians and parents to help develop a custom treatment program.

Points to take away:

  • Young patients have a tough time managing their conditions because they can get distracted and don’t want to stand out as “different” when with their friends.
  • To help them learn to take control of their treatment program, providers should work with parents and physicians to offer various solutions that can aid inc compliance.
  • Some of these include glucometers that autocode and require smaller sample sizes so that they can test more quickly.
  • Others include devices that run silently and look like other items, such as music players, to help the child be more discrete.

Learn More:

  • Visit the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation at www.jdrf.org.

This article originally appeared in the July 2010 issue of HME Business.

About the Author

David Kopf is the Publisher and Executive Editor of HME Business and DME Pharmacy magazines. Follow him on Twitter at @postacutenews.

The Key to Patient Engagement