AADE Wrap Up

AADE Wrap Up

Traditionally the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) conference is one of the better diabetes conferences. Unlike the ADA’s annual conference, the AADE is filled with educators who are passionate about diabetes as they must deal with real patients each and every day. As Diabetic Investor has noted on several occasions educators are the most over-worked, under-paid and underappreciated people in diabetes. While the physicians who treat patients get much of the glory it’s these dedicated individuals who really do most of the heavy lifting and deserve much of the credit when a patient achieves solid outcomes.

However, like everyone else in diabetes, educators are not immune to the changes going on in healthcare or difficult economic conditions. A fact that was painfully obvious at this year’s conference in Las Vegas. Although the show seemed well attended there was noticeable lack of energy in the exhibit hall. Perhaps educators feel as Diabetic Investor does that there are just too many me-too products and systems being promoted at these shows and that technology by itself won’t help patients achieve better outcomes.

Sadly the poor economy is taking its toll on diabetes education as many educators, already underpaid, noted they are finding it even more difficult making a living in today’s environment. In an effort to cut costs physician’s offices and hospitals are cutting back and asking the educators that do remain to do more with less. Making matters worse rumors are flying that Medtronic (NYSE:MDT), the market leader in insulin pumps, is eliminating their Certified Pump Trainers and moving towards a different model for training new pump patients. Although such a move would hurt many Certified Diabetes Educators (CDE), it does the reflect the new economic realities in the insulin pump business, where every pump company is looking for more cost effective, i.e. cheaper, ways to train patients new to pump therapy.

Another issue facing educators is what to do with all this new integrated diabetes management systems, which if successful could potentially diminish their roles.  As Diabetic Investor has been reporting this type of technology has the potential to change diabetes education, yet it remains unclear what role a CDE will play as this technology moves forward. While Diabetic Investor hopes there is a role of CDE’s the stark economic realities of diabetes and epidemic growth rate of the disease makes this type of technology increasingly important. As great as CDE’s are the simple truth is they are vastly out-numbered and cannot handle the coming avalanche of new patients. It is also true that technology can do what many of these educators do more cost effectively.

This does not mean that the future for CDE’s is bleak, rather Diabetic Investor sees the role of the educator changing and adapting to these new realities. Although face to face patient interactions may diminish somewhat as we move forward, Diabetic Investor actually believes with the right technology patient/CDE interaction could actually increase. Looking ahead Diabetic Investor believes that the winners in this race to develop diabetes technology will be the companies that incorporate CDE’s into their systems. While technology can provide useful information and lots of pretty pictures, the simple fact is many patients like to interact with a CDE before they make changes to their daily routines. In the old days CDE interventions were done face to face, in the new world these interactions can be done on the web or via a cell phone, or both.

Diabetic Investor also believes it would be wise of these companies who developing all this whiz bang technology to spend some quality time with CDE’s. Their input would be invaluable as they understand firsthand the issues patients face each and every day. Additionally they are experts as to why patients do and do not use many of the already existing whiz bang technology available. Having reviewed many of these new integrated systems Diabetic Investor can state with certainty this input is desperately needed as far too many of these systems fail to understand the day to day complexities of managing diabetes. They also make another mistake as many companies believe patients actually want to take a more active role in managing their diabetes.

Looking into the future Diabetic Investor believes educators who embrace and understand all this technology will not only survive but prosper. Those who don’t will continue to struggle and could see their role diminish. The reality is diabetes management is moving in a new direction and like or not technology will play an increasing role. Although we are not yet there today, ultimately integrated diabetes management systems will become the norm when physicians are incentivized to produce better outcomes. Once this happens it will also be a huge bonus for educators as they will no longer be viewed as necessary evil for physicians rather they would be viewed as an additional revenue area.

This fundamentally is the problem with diabetes education today; it’s viewed as necessary evil rather than a profit center.