When Diabetes Self-Management Education Is Emergency Medicine

Woman on a video conference call.

Telehealth can deliver critical care.

Diabetes self-management education and support (DSMES) services can help people manage their diabetes during difficult times, prevent additional short- or long-term complications, and reduce the number of visits to the emergency room or hospital.

Diabetes care and education specialists are certified professionals who can deliver DSMES services to people with diabetes. They are trained to help patients focus on the skills needed to manage their diabetes, and they can help patients develop a management plan that addresses the added challenges that come with emergencies.

Diabetes Management During a Crisis

Day-to-day diabetes management can be challenging in the best of times. Add in stress and disrupted routines that come with a crisis, and self-care can be even more daunting. Patients with diabetes are more vulnerable to infections, such as the flu, and they are at higher risk for adverse outcomes if they come down with a serious infection.

If people with diabetes need to stay at home for an extended time because of a crisis, the status of their jobs, health insurance, and finances may change in ways that can negatively affect their diabetes self-care, including:

  • Their ability to exercise
  • Their access to fresh, healthy foods
  • Their having enough diabetes medications and supplies
  • Their ability to see their doctors
  • Their added stress and anxiety
Diabetes Education and Support

Blood Glucose Management Can’t Wait

Effective blood glucose management is extremely important, and that is especially true during a crisis. Yet an emergency or crisis can make it more difficult for people with diabetes to manage their blood glucose.

Blood glucose that gets too high can lead to diabetic ketoacidosis, a serious condition that can lead to coma or death. Over time, ineffective blood glucose management can lead to long-term, serious health problems.

Diabetes care and education specialists can provide much-needed services to patients that help with other important measures, including blood pressure, lipids, and all aspects of diabetes care to keep patients healthy.

A lack of blood glucose management and other self-management routines, even over a short time, can have lasting negative consequences for people with diabetes. Putting off DSMES can have potentially harmful, long-term effects.

Telehealth Can Deliver Critical Care

When in-person visits aren’t possible, diabetes care and education specialists can stay connected with patients through telehealth, text, and video chats. Telehealth visits can help bridge the gap for patients when they’re not able to see you in the office. They can also provide flexibility in scheduling and an additional touchpoint for patients during critical times.

DSMES can help patients with their diabetes management during times of emergency until health care providers can resume normal visits with them, and it allows health care providers to spend more time with other patients in urgent need of medical care.

Page last reviewed: June 5, 2020