NYC Health + Hospitals expanding resources for diabetic patients

NYC Health + Hospitals is ramping up efforts to help its patients with diabetes better manage the disease and head off serious medical ailments.

Officials said they are spending $3 million to place 20 clinical pharmacists in some health centers and clinics by the end of the year to assist patients with medication.

Patients will also be able to undergo vital eye screenings during their primary care visits instead of having to make a separate appointment with a specialist.

“I take care of so many patients with diabetes,” said Dr. Dave Chokshi, chief population officer at NYC Health + Hospitals. “We need to use the philosophy of prevention and try to address their diabetes before it manifests with complications.”

And those complications, such as kidney disease, blindness, stroke and heart attack, can be devastating.

The city’s Health Department estimates about 987,000 New Yorkers have diabetes and 19 percent of them aren’t aware they have the disease.

Health + Hospitals, which operates a system of health care facilities, serves about 60,000 patients with diabetes. Many of its patients come from low-income households and do not have health insurance.

“This is a huge public health issue in New York City,” said Chokshi.

He said the clinical pharmacists will work with the primary care doctors and nurses to monitor prescriptions and make sure people get the right doses of medication.

“Some patients have very complicated regimens,” Chokshi said. “They can be on three different pills for diabetes and have to inject insulin just to keep their diabetes under control. That’s hard to do for any patient, but especially patients who have a lot of other things going on in their lives.”

He estimated the new pharmacists will be able to assist thousands of patients, but did not have an exact number.

Giving patients the chance to have teleretinal screenings during regular checkup guarantees they will get it done in a timely manner.

“We know diabetic retinopathy eye disease is most commonly associated with diabetes and is the leading cause of blindness in adults,” Chokshi said. “If we can screen everyone who needs it, we can save some people’s eye sight.”

Officials at Health + Hospitals are currently reviewing two pilot programs designed to help people manage their diabetes when they are at home and on the go.

One is a peer mentoring program that pairs up patients with a specially trained person living with diabetes. The mentor can share personal success stories and check in with the patient to make sure they are keeping medical appointments, eating healthy and taking care of themselves.

The other program being tested involves a smartphone app called BlueStar which gives patients tips and reminders and other advice based on their blood glucose levels, medications and lifestyle.