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Telephone Counseling Can Improve Diabetes Control

Printed self-management materials and medications not enough to provide diabetes control for patients…

Type 2 diabetes is a lifelong disease and requires extensive counseling, coaching, problem-solving and goal-setting discussions to overcome obstacles and show real improvements in health. With many patients being on-the-go, finding interventions that work and are easy for patients to access is important.

Researchers recently used the New York City A1C registry to identify diabetes patients and compare the effectiveness of telephone intervention versus print-only intervention for glucose control. The study enrolled 941 patients with diabetes A1Cs greater than 7%. Printed materials and telephone calls focused on medication adherence, nutrition and exercise.

In the telephone intervention group, patients with an A1C of 7-9% received four phone calls spread throughout one calendar year. Patients with an A1C greater than 9% received eight phone calls spread throughout one calendar year. Researchers assessed the A1C reductions of all study participants after one year of enrollment.

When comparing the interventions, the telephone group showed mean A1C reductions of 0.9% compared to 0.5% in the printed-material only group. For patients with an A1C greater than 9% (who received more phone calls), the A1C reductions were even greater and considered significant (18.6% reductions on average).

For certain, this study suggests there is benefit to making phone calls to diabetes patients for enhancing behavioral changes and reducing blood sugar. Health educators could be trained cost-effectively to improve diabetes control.

While we continue to explore new ways to approach healthcare, this study shows one potential avenue for better managing patients.

Practice Pearls:

  • Telephone intervention in managing diabetes patients may be better than simple printed material.
  • Researchers compared A1C reductions with printed-only materials to telephone intervention and found calling patients provided a 0.4% better A1C reduction.
  • Calling patients to provide cost-effective diabetes management may be useful for underserved and difficult to manage diabetes populations.

Chamany, Shadi, Elizabeth Walker, Clyde B Schechter et al. “Telephone Intervention to Improve Diabetes Control: A Randomized Trial in the New York City A1C Registry.” Am J Prev Med (2015). Web. 5 Aug 2015.