Company gives diabetes patients access to educators

Controlling diabetes often takes a team approach, but it's hard for many diabetics to access that kind of support. Health Reporter Erin Billups takes a look at the impact one company is having.

By the time Joseph Thompson retired from his career as a chef, he weighed 335 pounds. 

"See, chefs sometimes like to taste the food a lot. Then I noticed I gained weight from that," Thompson said. "I really thought that I smelled food and gained weight."

That weight gain led to a diabetes diagnosis.

"I thought I would never be a diabetic," Thompson said.

Thirty million Americans have diabetes, a disease so common it's often not taken seriously. And doctors with heavy patient loads like Eric Applebaum say they rarely have time to properly coach patients through necessary lifestyle changes.

"If I'm sitting in my office and we're talking about diabetes, all of a sudden, I see patients lining up on the board to be seen and I'm getting further and further behind. Am I going to give them the best education in diabetes? That's going to be really hard," Applebaum said.

So in recent years, hospitals and insurers, now incentivized to improve patient care, are investing in additional assistance for patients through independent comapnbies like Fit4D. The tech-based support service gives patients one-on-one access to certified diabetes educators through the phone, video chat or email.

"People feel a sense of failure, and they really need the support and compassion from a diabetes educator. So they'll reach out, they'll build a relationship and then they'll find out what's bugging them most about their diabetes and help them through that," said David Weingard, CEO and founder of Fit4D.

Fit4D has more than 100 diabetes educators. Dietitian Nicole Anziani is one. She reached out to Thompson after he received his diagnosis.

"Most patients don't know what they're supposed to be looking for," Anziani said. "What's their fasting sugar supposed to be? If they don't know what that's supposed to be, it's less motivating to want to check yourself."

"She was very determined, and what was amazing about her was, she gave me things to do and things to follow, and it worked," Thompson said.

So far, Thompson has lost more than 30 pounds. His blood sugar is under control, he's walking more, he's cooking healthier meals, and he is trying to change his family's eating habits, too.

"That's what was great about it," he said. "I have the tools. If you have the tools, you know what you got to do."

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