5 Takeaways From the Annual Meeting of Diabetes Educators

Highlights from the recent gathering of the American Association of Diabetes Educators, which met August 12-15, 2016, in San Diego, California.

The annual meeting of the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE), held August 12-15, 2016, in San Diego, California, was a visit to the front lines of this country’s fight against chronic disease. This gathering of dietitians, nurses, certified diabetes educators (CDEs) and other professionals produced a real-world picture of how hard it is to change behavior, and how payment reform is unfolding. Here are 5 takeaways from the meeting:

1. AADE will be a major force in delivering the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). The announcement that Medicare plans to pay for the DPP come January 2018 didn’t take the AADE by surprise—the group has been working with CDC since 2012 to set up 44 grant-funded sites to advance the program. AADE envisions tapping the network of 3500 sites that deliver diabetes self-management education to bring DPP to many of the estimated 86 million who have prediabetes.

2. Diabetes educators are greatly affected by payment reform. Because improvements in blood pressure, cholesterol, and glycated hemoglobin are ground zero for how well an accountable care organization meets quality benchmarks, diabetes educators have no choice but to be foot soldiers in the movement. But they say not everything is within their control, and that physicians should be more mindful of medication costs to improve adherence.

3. They are embracing their role in care coordination. Multiple sessions at AADE offered practical advice on how health systems and health plans can use diabetes educators in care coordination. Speakers showed how educators are ideally suited to address barriers to attending appointments and social factors that affect patient health.

4. Partnerships with primary care physicians are the next big thing. New payment models will demand that primary care practices do more to treat diabetes aggressively, and CDEs can offer a solution. One leading endocrinologist presented a study that showed CDEs who consult with an endocrinologist while embedded in primary care practices produce outcomes “better than any new drug.”

5. The eternal question: how do we get paid? Questions of how to bill for what diabetes educators do came up repeatedly, and it seems there’s a lot care that’s given without compensation. For example, AADE’s Director of Prevention Joanna Craver DiBenedetto presented survey results that showed 80% of the members are doing some type of preventive service already, but only 0.4% are being reimbursed.