Pilot project aims to measure if group education helps patients better manage diabetes

When patients take active roles in their own health care, outcomes improve. That’s the premise for a pilot program taking place in the USF Health’s Division of General Internal Medicine through a grant provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The six-month $12,000 study is a pilot project aiming to measure the efficacy of providing patient education group sessions to help patients control their diabetes, said Crystal Jacovino, DO, assistant professor of medicine and co-principal investigator for the study.

Diabetes patients watch a cooking demonstration as part of the nutrition section of the group education program.

Diabetes patients watch a cooking demonstration as part of the nutrition section of the group education program.

“Each month, the group meets to discuss key topics that can help patients better manage their diabetes, from having a better understanding of the disease and its effect on their bodies to managing their medications to nutrition and physical activity,” Dr. Jacovino said.

“Measured against a control group, vitals and blood work will reveal whether the focused group education approach gives patients the information they need to take more active roles in successfully managing their diabetes. When we take a multi-disciplinary approach to patient care we are all working together to help educate our patients and improve their condition.”

Jerry Brown offers cooking tips for eating better carbs, as Dr. Jacovino reads a product label showing nutrition content.

Jerry Brown offers cooking tips for eating better carbs, as Dr. Jacovino reads a product label showing nutrition content.

As part of the study, the 12 patients in the education group were chosen randomly among consenting patients meeting the study criteria (Type 2 diabetes, ages 18 to 85 and A1C > 9%). The group of 12 is meeting once a month for six months; the program started in June and is set to wrap up in November. Members of the group also discuss their own concerns with other group members and health care experts and share tips each has learned for improving their own diabetes management. The results will help USFPG providers determine future programs for providing a group medical care model, Dr. Jacovino said.

The project also provides a critical learning opportunity for the resident physicians in training in the Division of General Internal Medicine, said Lucy Guerra, MD MPH FACP FHM, associate professor of medicine, associate director of the internal medicine residency program for USF Health, and director of the Division of General Internal Medicine.

“A major aim of the project and a core component of national resident educational goals is to offer innovative ways of delivering medical care,” Dr. Guerra said. “In this project has involved residents in every diabetic group visit, giving them that opportunity to see firsthand another option that could help their future patients succeed with managing their diabetes.”

Prior to the cooking demonstration, patients are taught best approaches to meal planning.

Prior to the cooking demonstration, patients are taught best approaches to meal planning.

The education program is also part of a broader effort across the USF Physicians Group to create a patient-centered medical home for patients that coordinates care and reinforces a stronger patient-doctor relationship. In addition, the patient education program in the Division of General Internal Medicine dovetails with USF Health’s overall diabetes efforts that encompass not only patient care but also research and outreach.

Photos by Eric Younghans, USF Health Office of Communications.