Journal Record Staff Reporter
Patient education is one of the most cost-effective methods of controlling problems associated with diabetes, a local certified diabetes educator says.
In fact, a 10-year nationwide study showed that for every $1 spent on patient education, $3 was saved on medical care, said Anastasia Marie Chehak, 6520 N. Western Ave.
"Besides the direct savings in lower medical costs, think of the savings in possible loss of life, sight or limbs," she said. "Also, the quality of life appears to be better when the patient is educated about the disease and is empowered to take control of the treatment."
Patient education is a relatively new concept, even within the American Diabetes Association.
"Ten years ago, I was working with Dr. (James R.) Gavin (III) developing procedures for patient education," she said. "At that time, most people in the industry didn't feel like this was the proper thing to do, that patients could learn more from their medical care specialists.
"Now, though, nearly everyone has come around to our way of thinking."
Education _ that is, teaching the patient how to monitor and control blood sugar levels, how to properly control the diet and how and when to exercise _ has become so accepted that most insurance companies cover office visits. Some insurance companies, however, don't recognize this and still others pay for only a maximum of two office visits in a lifetime.
"That means that many who could receive benefit of education are denied this," Chehak said. "I feel that insurance companies should reconsider their positions on this."
A certified diabetes educator should not replace a physician or a member of the medical team, but should be an addition to the team, she said.
"Many times the physician is just too busy to take the time to properly educate the patient," she said. "Even if the physician had the time, it would be too expensive for the patient.
"Too many times, a physician or nurse will simply tell a patient what needs to be done and expect the patient to follow through with it. That's what they call education.
"But it just doesn't happen that way. The medical team seldom takes a person's lifestyle into consideration when offering education on how to control complications and symptoms of diabetes.
"For a treatment regimen to be successful, it must be built around the lifestyle of the patient, and there must be follow-up visits to insure the patient is following the prescribed routine."
Chehak, who sees about 35 patients weekly, is able to empathize with her patients, because she is a diabetic. That's why she became interested in learning about the disease and helping others.
"When I was diagnosed as diabetic about 25 years ago, I thought people didn't know enough about it, especially ways in which I could care for myself," she said.
So, she became a licensed and registered dietitian, clinical nutritionist, a …