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Group classes for diabetes education lead to better care and outcomes

July 9, 2014 Toronto

Patients with diabetes in Ontario who attended group classes to learn how to manage their disease had fewer emergency department visits, higher rates of laboratory testing and greater use of statins than patients attending individual counseling, according to a study released today by the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences (ICES).

“In a group class, health care providers can take care of multiple patients simultaneously. This makes it a less resource-intensive service than one-on-one counseling that also leads to better patient care,” says Dr. Baiju Shah, lead author and senior scientist at ICES.

The goal of diabetes management is to optimally control patients’ blood glucose levels and other vascular risk factors, since intensive control lowers the risk of both diabetes complications and mortality. Self-management education helps patients understand their disease, supports them in making changes in diet, exercise and other lifestyle behaviour, and increases their confidence in being able to care for themselves.

The study found that:

  • Most Ontarians with diabetes who received diabetes self-management education (DSME) attended individual counseling rather than group classes.
  • Patients who attended group classes had fewer acute diabetes complications and received better diabetes care in the year after their DSME.
  • Patients living in rural areas were markedly less likely to use group classes.

“Previous research has shown that group classes tend to be longer in duration than individual visits, and the information received from group classes is rated as more “useful” by patients than that received at individual counselling. This may explain why those who attend group sessions have better outcomes,” adds Shah.

The study “Diabetes education through group classes leads to better care and outcomes than individual counselling in adults: a population-based cohort study” was published today in the Canadian Journal of Public Health.

Authors: Jeremiah Hwee, Karen Cauch-Dudek, Charles Victor, Ryan Ng and Baiju R. Shah.

ICES is an independent, non-profit organization that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of health care issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting health care needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy.

For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

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