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Looking for Support to Manage Type 1 or Type 2 Diabetes? DSMES Can Help!

By Amelia Dmowska

Low-cost education services can help you learn new skills to eat well, stay active, and monitor blood sugar levels

Diabetes self-management education and support (often referred to simply as DSMES or diabetes education) programs are taught by a healthcare team trained to help people with type 1 and type 2 diabetes set, reach, and maintain their health goals.

DSMES has been shown to help people with diabetes feel more empowered to manage their diabetes and lower their A1C by as much as 1%. In addition, DSMES services can help people slow down health complications related to diabetes, like eye damage and heart disease, or avoid these complications altogether.

Through DSMES, diabetes educators teach a variety of skills to help people take ownership of their daily diabetes management, including how to check blood sugar, develop routines to take medication, incorporate healthy eating and activity into daily life, and cope with stress and diabetes distress. DSMES is offered both through in-person and online programs.

DSMES services must meet standards established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid and they are officially accredited (recognized) by either the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) or the American Diabetes Association (ADA).  DSMES is covered under Medicare Part B and most private health insurance companies because it is recognized as part of comprehensive diabetes care. You can call your insurer directly to confirm whether DSMES is covered by your plan.

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IN-PERSON DSMES PROGRAMS

How can I find a DSMES program close to me?

  1. Ask your current healthcare provider for a referral.

  2. Enter your location into the AADE’s search tool.

  3. Copy and paste the program name into Google to find a phone number for the program.

  4. Call the center to find out specific information about cost and registration for their DSMES program.

Who would benefit? 

Anyone with type 1 or type 2 diabetes, including:

  • People who are newly diagnosed

  • People have questions about diabetes

  • People who are changing treatments

  • Caregivers

How much does it cost?

  • Most insurance plans, including Medicare Part B, cover up to 10 hours of diabetes education as an initial benefit

  • After the initial benefit is used, Medicare covers two hours of DSMES each calendar year as a follow up benefit.  Many health plans follow Medicare coverage, so check with your plan to make sure.

Do I need a referral (recommended for the program by your healthcare provider)?

Yes, you will need to be referred by the qualified health provider you currently see for diabetes treatment. A referral is necessary to participate in the program and get the costs covered by health insurance. The qualified health provider can be:

  • A physician

  • A nurse-practitioner

  • A physician assistant

If your provider doesn’t bring up DSMES on their own, don’t hesitate to bring it up and ask for a referral. The referral must indicate:

  • How many initial or follow-up hours of DSMES will be involved

  • Which topics should be addressed

  • Whether the person should receive education in a one-on-one setting or in a group (or a combination of both)

Who provides DSMES services? 

A trained healthcare team, including at least one person who is a:

  • Registered nurse

  • Registered dietitian nutritionist

  • Pharmacist

  • Or another healthcare professional with Board Certification in Advance Diabetes Management (BC-ADM) or Certification as a Diabetes Educator (CDE). Note: Most often this person is both a CDE/BC-ADM and also a registered nurse, registered dietitian or pharmacist.

  • All other healthcare workers in the DSMES team are trained and supervised.

What is the format of the service?

DSMES is typically taught, in person, in group settings.  One-on-one settings can be arranged if needed. The provider who refers you to DSMES will recommend the number of hours of education based on your specific needs. Diabetes education services are also available through various apps and web platforms; to learn more about online options, click here.

Where can I find more information?

  • To learn more about diabetes education from the American Association of Diabetes Education (AADE), click here.  

  • To read about the 2017 National Standards for Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support, click here.

ONLINE AND APP-BASED PROGRAMS

If you don’t have the time to attend an in-person program, consider using an online platform or app. Livongo and One Drop are both officially recognized to deliver diabetes education services. Though the others are not, mySugr and WellDoc also provide support and education. A number of apps exist related to weight-loss and healthy eating, such as myfitnesspal and LoseIt!, though there are also several that specifically focus on diabetes. Read below for an overview of some options, in alphabetical order. This list is not exhaustive! 

  • Livongo (type 1 and type 2) is a diabetes management program that provides 24/7 access to support from Certified Diabetes Educators (CDEs) in addition to unlimited test strips and a cellular-enabled blood glucose meter. These CDEs reach out to users within a few minutes if a blood sugar reading is too high or low. The Livongo app also includes diabetes education and tips. The company’s “Family Care Plan,” which includes the CDE support, test strips, and blood glucose meter, is available for $65 per month. Livongo may also be provided by an employer or health plan as a benefit. Learn more about Livongo here.

  • mySugr Academy (type 2) is a 10-lesson course designed for people with type 2 diabetes. It costs $49 (two lessons free) and is based around short, fun videos to make things easy to understand and remember. mySugr Academy complements the mySugr Logbook app, which has more than 1 million users.

  • One Drop (type 1 and type 2) offers in-app education through a nine-week program, as well as an on-call chat interface for 24/7 support from diabetes educators. This coaching service, called One Drop Experts, can be purchased for $12.95 per month. The app also offers courses in advanced carb counting and overcoming diabetes burnout. One Drop Premium adds unlimited test strips on top of the coaching for $39.95 per month (or $33.33 with a prepaid 12-month subscription). Learn more about One Drop here.

  • WellDoc’s BlueStar apps offer education and support for people with type 2 diabetes (whether using oral medications or insulin). The app provides real-time, individualized feedback based on tracking of diet, activity, and sleep as well as motivational support and videos. BlueStar is offered in prescription and wellness program versions, and is often reimbursed through insurance like a drug. To learn more about BlueStar, click here

This article is part of a series on affordable programs that help people learn skills and tools to manage their diabetes or prediabetes. To learn about different available programs, click on the links below:

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