Bassett Healthcare : Those with diabetes need more education

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Story Updated: Jun 6, 2011

COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (WKTV) - The Bassett Healthcare Network announced on Monday that it has come up with a new comprehensive diabetes program, informally calling it "Taking the battle to the patient."

Dr. Amy Freeth, the Medical Director of Bassett's Diabetes program, announced that Bassett has hired several diabetes education experts, as well as a nurse practitioner and a physician's assistant, all to help educate those with diabetes, one of the key points of Bassett's new comprehensive program.

There will be one-on-one classes offered as well as larger group classes for those that have already been diagnosed with diabetes. The classes will be available in eleven different communities across Bassett's seven-county area.

The classes will run for several sessions over several weeks.

Dr. Freeth says that for many people, their doctor may have told them they have diabetes, then prescribed medication, told them how to use their machines if they needed one, plus gave them a handout on what foods to eat and which to avoid. Dr. Freeth says these basic guidelines aren't working and the initial consultation with their doctor is proven not to be enough to get many people to do the right things.

"Whether they were diagnosed today, or they were diagnosed ten years ago, we have a lot of patients who say 'I've never done classes, I learned so much in that class, I wish I had done it ten years ago,'" Dr. Freeth said.

Dr. Freeth says the classes seem to get through to people, more so than a doctor's consultation.

"If we put people in a room who have diabetes, they start talking and start coming up with their own solutions," Dr. Freeth said. "So it's not me telling them you should do this."

And when it comes to changing bad eating habits, Dr. Freeth says it helps people to talk to someone over a several week period.

"These are hard things to implement in medicine," Dr. Freeth said. "These are things that we just have to teach people, and if you're 60 and diagnosed with diabetes, you've been eating for 60 years the same way. Those are hard behaviors to change, but people do it, and when they do it, they're proud, they feel good. It's almost like a click, an epiphany."

One 68 year old man who had that epiphany is 68 year old Francis Herringshaw of Little Falls.

Herringshaw was diagnosed with diabetes 15 years ago. He says the medications that were prescribed by his doctor weren't doing much to control the disease, and then one day last December, his doctor asked him if he wanted to go back to school, diabetes school.

Herringshaw says that in the Bassett classes, he learned a lot.

"You get all of your information, tells you what you should eat and how much you should eat, and exercise is a big factor into it," he said.

Something he says his doctor told him, but he seemed to 'get it' when he actually attend a class. Herringshaw took a series of classes at Bassett's Herkimer campus beginning in December and has since lost 35 pounds and says his glucose level is well under control and his vision is even better, according to his eye doctor.

Dr. Freeth says that in the group classes, there is a facilitator, "but what happens is that people start talking about their diabetes and talking about what happened at the grocery store and talking about how many carbs this has and they start to explore it on their own."

The important thing for all people, Dr. Freeth says, is to get screened and to get your diabetes under control as soon as possible.

"Not only do people with diabetes have to take medications and have meters and test their blood sugars, they can also get complications if they don't take care of their diabetes," Dr. Freeth said. "Number one, it's the leading cause of amputation, number one cause of blindness, number one cause of kidney failure and the need for dialysis."

Dr. Freeth says the program isn't free, but most insurance companies will cover the program for those who already have been diagnosed with diabetes.

"Because we have the certification, we're able to bill insurances, and most insurances cover these diabetes education services, they're just not being taken advantage of," Dr. Freeth said.

To make an appointment just call the Bassett Healthcare Network at 1-800-227-7388.

One last note - Bassett is also in the process of setting up a program for people who don't have diabetes, but are at risk for the disease.

Dr. Freeth says the 16 to 20 week program may be one of the ultimate answers the epidemic called diabetes.

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