POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Nov 23, 2010
Diabetes is a chronic disease that costs our island state --$1 billion each year. This hefty strain on our local economy will only get heavier as our population ages.
More important, diabetes costs many lives and strips people of their quality of life. Diabetics are twice as likely to lose a limb to amputation and become disabled. They're at higher risk for stroke, heart attack, blindness, kidney failure, nerve damage, severe dental disease and other medical conditions.
Yet, diabetes is a very controllable disease. The right education, medication and lifestyle, including regular exercise and sensible eating, can go a long way toward maintaining good health and restoring a positive outlook on life.
As a physician, I find it difficult to create real, meaningful change in someone's life during a 15-minute office visit. Patients take my advice seriously, but soon after they leave my office, their obligations to earn a living, care for family, etc. take priority over their personal well-being.
I'm always looking for effective ways to improve the lives of my patients, to help them prioritize "good health" in their daily schedule. Today, the Internet is bridging this gap between doctor visits and real-life care with an online tool called MyHealthAdvantage.
This free, secure web portal for patients of Straub Clinic & Hospital and Kauai Medical Clinic allows patients to access the same health information as their doctor. It boosts communication between doctor and patient. It coordinates patients' actions with their doctor's, so they have the same targets and work off the same page. For people living with a chronic disease like diabetes, it motivates them to stay on track and keep striving toward better health.
My patient, John Lu'uwai, suffered a heart attack in June 2003 at age 42. He was diabetic, with high blood pressure and cholesterol, and 100 pounds overweight. He vowed to improve his health, but struggled to maintain consistency.
After years of this roller coaster, real changes in John's health finally started to occur when he began using MyHealthAdvantage. Now, whenever John wants to check his cholesterol, get a reminder about an appointment or reschedule it, ask me a health question, or refill a prescription, it's instantly at his fingertips, 24/7 from his computer.
John and I stay in communication through our secure e-mail. He sends me his blood-sugar level every few days, and, like a "health coach," I send him updates or instructions. This takes me just a couple of minutes. Our nurse educators do the same.
Everyone needs a little encouragement that, over time, will produce more dramatic results than any get-skinny-fast program. When you develop consistency, you create real change in someone's life.
The results speak for themselves. John has witnessed a steady, consistent reduction in his weight. Overall, his numbers are improving. We plan for him to be less dependent on medication and require fewer doctor visits. It's cheaper for him, and he'll participate more in his son's sports and the fun activities that make life worth living.
John, who is a single father, doesn't want his children to lose him. He wants to increase his time on this Earth, to see his children have children. He knows it's his responsibility to manage his diabetes, but with MyHealthAdvantage, we can share that responsibility.
Dr. Dale Glenn is a family practice physician at Straub Kailua Family Health Center.