Level up your diabetes care with specialists, services collaboration

November 3, 2021
The AOA HPI offers information about providing integrated, person-centered diabetes self-management care and education through partnerships with community opportunities and other specialists.
Diabetes Awareness Month

Optometry can leverage a broad collaborative of diabetes care and education specialists and services that help patients engage impactful self-care, notes a new AOA Health Policy Institute (HPI) paper with information about maximizing these interprofessional resources.

Published on Nov. 1, the AOA HPI paper, titled, Diabetes Clinical Management, Education, Prevention and Support Bilaterally Integrated through Optometry and Diabetes Care and Education Specialists, emphasizes the positive health outcomes afforded by doctors of optometry collaborating with and utilizing Diabetes Care and Education Specialists (DCES) and their various diabetes treatment plan services or diabetes prevention programs (DPP).

“As optometry’s role in team-based diabetes care expands, its integration of clinical management, education, prevention and support can be assisted through DCES as presented in this HPI brief,” says Michael Dueñas, O.D., AOA chief public health officer. “This becomes all the more important in reducing the full range of morbidities and mortality associated with this disease.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates nearly 34.2 million Americans have diabetes and 88 million have prediabetes while another 7.3 million have type 2 diabetes (T2D) but are unaware of their condition. Such is the case, doctors of optometry are often the first health care providers to detect a patient’s condition. And, in fact, doctors of optometry identified signs of diabetic retinopathy in over 431,000 individuals without a prior diabetes diagnosis in 2019, alone.

Doctors of optometry, as are other physician providers, are considered Level 1 diabetes educators, having the basic background knowledge of diabetes inherent to health professional academic training, including basic patient instruction on nutrition guidelines, glycemic management and self-monitoring of blood glucose, in addition to other facets. However, the AOA HPI paper notes that such Level 1 diabetes educators should utilize the expertise of Level 2—certified diabetes care and education specialists (CDCES) and Level 3—board certified-advanced diabetes management (BC-ADM) or certified diabetes technology clinicians (CDTC)—diabetes educators, possessing an even greater body of knowledge on applying, analyzing and evaluating the individuals’ specific needs.

Additionally, these DCES can help in the implementation of various services and programs, including: 

  • Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support (DSMES)
  • Diabetes Self-Management Training (DSMT)
  • Medical Nutrition Therapy (MNT)
  • The National DPP and Medicare DPP

“My hope is that doctors of optometry understand their unique position in diabetes care and prevention, one that intersects diabetes and prediabetes patients more than most any other specialty profession; second only to cardiology,” Dr. Dueñas says. “This imposes a unique opportunity for optometry’s horizontal expansion of diabetes clinical duties and scope, well beyond retinopathy detection.”

Access the AOA HPI issue brief in full for additional information and resources.

5 AOA resources to leverage this National Diabetes Month

November is National Diabetes Month, a health observance that dedicates attention to a condition affecting nearly 1 in 10 Americans and how healthy lifestyle changes can help manage or even reverse diabetes risk. To support doctors’ of optometry clinical care and help raise public awareness of the importance of diabetic eye care, the AOA provides the following resources: 

  1. Eye Care of the Patient with Diabetes Mellitus, Second Edition. This AOA evidence-based clinical practice guideline contains 31 recommended courses of action to enhance optometry’s care of patients with diabetes. The culmination of two and a half years’ research and over 230 academic articles cited, the diabetes guideline offers information reaffirming optometry’s role in the multidisciplinary approach to diabetes care.
  2. AOA HPI issue briefs on diabetes care. Access relevant policy information and data supporting optometry’s role in diabetes care and the criticality of comprehensive eye health care, including Timing of Comprehensive Eye Examination is Vital to Reducing Diabetes Complications and Advancing Patient Care through POCT and CLIA.
  3. EyeLearn Professional Development Hub courses. The AOA’s members-only educational resource hosts numerous courses on diabetes care, including point of care testing and Clinical Laboratory Improvement Amendments (CLIA) certification. Eligible for AOA credit, the AOA/HPI Diabetes MasterClass series offers the optometric care team clinical pearls and expert knowledge from doctors of optometry and other professionals who have specialized in diabetes care.
  4. Practice materials and resources through AOA Marketplace. The AOA’s online store offers products for supporting your patient education, including fact sheets, pamphlets and the diabetic retinopathy chairside tool.
  5. Public education and campaign resources. Access customizable materials to help educate your community about the importance of diabetic eye care, including a digital presentation and infographic.
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