USF Health Diabetes Home for Healthy Living makes managing diabetes much simpler for patients and their families

Not sure what to expect, Alison Winters walked into the new USF Health Diabetes Home for Healthy Living in the Westshore area of Tampa.

What she found was a relaxing, home-like environment that offered every aspect of care she would need to successfully manage her Type 2 diabetes.

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“The atmosphere is really nice, like a home, and they even have a dog, which is an added touch that really makes a difference,” Winters said.

USF Health celebrated the grand opening of its Diabetes Home for Healthy Living Aug. 26, ushering in a new approach to diabetes care: A caring environment offering all-encompassing, 24/7 diabetes management care.

“We knew we had to create a place that offered a sense of support more than a sense of a clinic,” said Michele Laine, ARNP, the nurse practitioner director of the USF Health Diabetes Home.

“Happy patients are more likely to be compliant so our main goal is to have a whole bunch of happy patients.”

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Set with several other businesses at the busy intersection of Westshore Boulevard and Kennedy Boulevard, the 2,000-square-foot facility presents itself first as a storefront. Inside, home-like environment conveys a feeling of calm and comfort and look nothing like typical healthcare clinics. A closer look finds the services necessary for patient with diabetes — on-site laboratory for speedy glucose, A1C, lipid panel and other lab results, retinal scanning to monitor issues faced by many diabetics, customized diet planning based on patient preferences, and diabetes education classes, to name just a few.

And they are all under one roof.

“The USF Health Diabetes Home for Healthy Living is a one-stop experience for care that makes managing diabetes much simpler for patients and their families,” Laine said.

“We have created a medical home, bringing state-of-the-art medical technology, advanced diabetes management techniques, continuous monitoring and an intensive focus under one roof to offer convenient, effective, innovative and all-embracing diabetes care.”

Primarily for adults with Type 2 diabetes or adults with Type 1 who have been diagnosed for at least one year, the USF Health Diabetes Home helps patients proactively manage diabetes and control its many associated illnesses.

The USF Health Diabetes Home is also where anyone diagnosed with pre-diabetes can get guidance for turning their diagnosis around and potentially preventing its progression to Type 2 diabetes. Pre-diabetes is when blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not yet high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. In the United States, about 79 million people have pre-diabetes.

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The USF Health Diabetes Home expands its basic tenet to help patients by also reaching into the business community.  More employers are becoming more involved in managing the behaviors of employees with chronic health conditions to improve their health, curb absenteeism and reduce healthcare costs and hospital readmissions.

USF Health will be collaborating with health plans and employers to develop employee incentives for individuals with diabetes to follow recommended care guidelines, which may prevent a self-insured employer paying two to four times more in healthcare expenses for these individuals,” said Seena Salyani, MBA, MHA, administrator for the USF Health Diabetes Home.

“Offering a facility that provides employers with a resource for their employees with diabetes is just one way to help them continue to be productive employees,” Salyani said.  “We believe having our first clinic in Florida’s largest office community (the Westshore Business District) complements our business model of providing convenient access to a medical home providing one-stop diabetes care with innovative technology platforms.”

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Such innovation was echoed at the USF Health Diabetes Home ribbon-cutting ceremony, held Aug. 26.

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USF President Judy Genshaft provided the cut that opened the USF Diabetes Home for Healthy Living.

“This is a great service to our community and is a great addition to USF Health’s leading research, clinical practice and education initiatives,” said USF President Judy Genshaft.

“This facility shows that we can still live a healthy life if we’re given the right tools,” said Interim CEO for USF Health, Donna Petersen, ScD, MHS, dean of the USF College of Public Health. “The USF Health Diabetes Home is a model for care and what we learn here can be applied to other chronic illnesses.”

“Thanks go to so many people who helped put this together,” said Robert Nelson, MD, associate vice president for Children’s Health for USF Health and the Morsani College of Medicine and medical director for the USF Health Diabetes Home. “We’ve spent a year and a half working on this and I’m really excited and very pleased to have been a part of this effort.”

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Dr. Bob Nelson gave a heart-felt thank you at the USF Health Diabetes Home ribbon-cutting.

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At its core, the USF Health Diabetes Home for Healthy Living helps patients take better control of their own diabetes and successfully manage the sometimes daily fluctuations in blood sugar, as well has delay or even prevent its many associated illnesses.

Part of that means letting patients tap into only select services.

“Many patients just need support, others need a more in-depth approach to treatment,” Laine said.

For example, she said, some patients just need help with understanding how to use their insulin pumps, “so we provide focused education on just that,” she said.

Other patients, like Winters, are seeking more hands-on care.

“My physician was hesitant to change the approach for treating my diabetes,” Winters said. “I knew I wanted to take a more aggressive approach to managing my diabetes but he seemed adamant that I stay the course with my current treatment. The USF Health Diabetes Home listened to my concerns, formulated a plan and, within two visits, I saw improvement in my lab levels.”

Anthony Markum, who has Type 1 diabetes, appreciates the all-in-one approach at the USF Health Diabetes Home.

“I’ve been to a million and a half endocrinologists since being diagnosed as a child and the visits involved drawing blood from my arm and then waiting about two weeks for my A1C results,” Markum said. “At the USF Diabetes Home, they were able to get my A1C from a finger prick in only 35 seconds. And in that same visit, I also had a retina scan and results of my average blood sugars, all in one visit. And the atmosphere is very welcoming and the staff is very knowledgeable. The nurse practitioner and physician don’t just talk to you about your numbers. They ask how I’m doing, what’s going on in my personal live, what stresses I’m feeling. They took the time to get to know me personally as a patient. I love it.”

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USF Health Diabetes Home for Healthy Living

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128C S. Westshore Blvd. in Tampa

(in the Town Square Center at the intersection of Kennedy and Westshore Boulevards

(813) 974-2201

Office hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday

Webite: health.usf.edu/doctors/diabeteshome

Among the program’s features:

- A medical home model that moves diabetes management from the academic setting closer to the places where people live and work, but still gives patients coordinated access to the comprehensive range of specialists in the USF Physicians Group.

- Targets adults with Type 2 diabetes, or adults with Type 1 diabetes who have been diagnosed for at least one year.  Diabetes is increasing in epidemic proportions across the U.S.

- Services and routine tests under one roof to improve patient compliance and quality outcomes, including an in-house laboratory offering same-day results for tests such as A1C and lipid profiles, customized nutrition and exercise plans, and ancillary services like retinal scans and metabolic testing.

- Leverages technology in a way that makes personalized self-management of diabetes easier for patients.  Continuous monitoring of glucose readings with mobile platforms will be available.

- Staffed by a nurse practitioner and certified diabetes educator, and physicians focused on a comprehensive, more holistic approach to diabetes treatment.  From the décor and the conversational arrangement of furniture to computer tablets available for online education, the community-based center was designed with more of a welcoming, home-like feel than that of a clinical setting.

- Hershey, a Labrador/Husky mix specially trained to detect fluctuations in blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes, who greets patients with a wag of her tail, which adds to the comfortable, home-like environment.

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Michele Laine, nurse practitioner director for the USF Health Diabetes Home, with Hershey.

Story by Sarah A. Worth, photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications