Visuals such as images, illustrations, diagrams, and infographics are effective tools for communicating various health information. With the help of well-designed visuals, health care professionals can make diabetes education for patients more engaging and appealing.
Read on to learn how you can use different visuals to improve your healthcare communications and help diabetes patients better understand and manage their condition.
Click to jump ahead:
- What is diabetes education?
- What is diabetes self-management education?
- How to simplify diabetes information for patients
What is diabetes education?
As its name suggests, diabetes education is a form of patient education that’s directed at people with diabetes.
This is done by licensed health professionals such as registered nurses, registered dieticians, pharmacists, etc. and aims to help patients understand diabetes, how it affects their lives, and what they can do to improve their health.
According to the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (ADCES), here is what diabetes educators can help patients:
- Learn basic information about diabetes and its management
- Understand how to use diabetes devices
- Adopt healthy eating habits through nutrition education
- Develop problem-solving strategies and skills to self-manage diabetes
- Monitor blood glucose and learn how to interpret and appropriately respond to the results
- Understand how their medications work
- Develop skills for handling stressful situations
Most often, it can be difficult for patients to process all this new information without the right materials. Having visual handouts like this infographic can help diabetes patients remember information more easily and motivate them to work on their diabetes self-care:
What is diabetes self-management education?
Diabetes self-management education (DSME) is a form of care that all people with diabetes need to receive. Its objective is to impart the knowledge, skills, and abilities that are necessary for diabetes self-care in order to improve patients’ health outcomes and overall quality of life.
At the core of diabetes management are the specific needs, goals, and life experiences of those who have the disease. It promotes informed decision-making and problem-solving, good self-care behaviors and routines, and active collaboration with a healthcare provider.
These standards for DSME are designed to assist diabetes educators in different settings so they can provide evidence-based education and quality diabetes self-management education.
The infographic below from the National Jewish Health is a good example of a self-management visual that you can use to help your patients learn how to live with diabetes. This template can not only increase your productivity but also save your patient education efforts.
How do you educate a patient with diabetes?
Most often, people with diabetes first hear about the disease from a healthcare professional, and they tend to be overwhelmed or confused because of all the medical jargon and complicated information.
When educating a newly diagnosed patient, start by defining what diabetes mellitus is and explaining the difference between type 1 and type 2 diabetes. Knowing what kind of diabetes they have been diagnosed with is crucial so they can understand exactly what is happening within their own body.
You can use a diagram such as this to creatively illustrate the causes of diabetes:
Provide enough background about the disease first before proceeding to give care instructions such as how to test their blood sugar or administer an insulin shot.
Try to simplify the vocabulary you use when discussing pathophysiology and other diabetes topics. Instead of just telling them what to do, give reasons why they need to do those things and how doing them will improve their condition.
For example, this is an infographic template that effectively discusses performing A1C tests using helpful graphics and icons:
How do you explain diabetes to patients?
A simple explanation for diabetes would be that it is a disease that occurs when blood sugar or blood glucose levels are too high.
An even simpler definition would be that diabetes means the body doesn’t use food effectively, which might make more sense to most people.
However, with abstract concepts such as illnesses and diseases, words are not enough to depict the process that the body goes through.
Try to use analogies, illustrations and other visual aids to simplify information and meet the learning needs of patients, and in doing so, you can make them feel empowered to take control of their condition and encourage them to seek proper treatment and care.
You can also use statistics to show how the disease affects different people of different ages and backgrounds and emphasize the magnitude of its effects:
What do you educate your patients with diabetes on to prevent complications?
Ultimately, preventing diabetes complications such as stroke and heart disease all boils down to pursuing a healthy lifestyle.
And you can make patients see how easy it is to avoid complications by summarizing how they can achieve a healthy lifestyle into 3 simple steps, which are:
- Following a healthy eating plan
- Exercising regularly
- Tracking blood sugar, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels
One way to effectively sum up the effects or complications of diabetes, as well as what patients can do to manage their health, is by using simple icons in your visuals, like this template below:
Teaching patients about symptoms of complications that they should watch out for based on their type of diabetes can help them develop and follow a plan for prevention, identify problems earlier, and get appropriate treatment sooner.
What are self-care skills in diabetes?
Teaching self-management or self-care skills can help patients monitor their health and keep their condition in check. These include:
- Testing blood sugar levels
- Consuming balanced meals and controlled portion sizes
- Engaging in daily physical activity
- Drinking lots of water to avoid dehydration
- Taking medications as prescribed
- Performing your own diabetic foot exam
- Checking for other signs or symptoms caused by diabetes
Here is an infographic template for controlling cholesterol that you can use to present information in an easily digestible manner:
Studies confirm that diabetes education programs on self-care have a positive effect on patients. Those who received diabetes education have been found to have better overall health compared to those who never received diabetes education. That said, it’s up to health care professionals like you to successfully deliver the value that patient teaching can offer.
How do you simplify diabetes information for patients?
You don’t need to be a certified diabetes educator or an education specialist to teach patients about diabetes. Other health care professionals like lay health workers, medical assistants, physical therapists, and even social workers can be diabetes educators.
What’s important is your ability to overcome barriers to teaching. One of these barriers is poor communication, which you can overcome by simplifying medical jargon and making sure information is correct and correctly understood to produce good patient outcomes.
Here is another example of a template that provides a way for you to lay out information that won’t overwhelm patients:
People with diabetes can seek online resources such as the American Diabetes Association where they can get in-depth information about diabetes care and management.
However, even though there is plenty of information available on the internet, people still need the help of a healthcare professional to decipher information and guide them through the vast resources on diabetes.
Using visuals can help you deliver your message more directly and increase patients’ understanding of complex information. Here are some visual communication tools that can capture attention and leave a lasting impact on your patients:
Diabetes education handouts
Handouts like leaflets or pamphlets have plenty of room for you to convey a lot of information and be creative at the same time. Use them to connect with patients on a personal level by making sure that the content is in their native language and the text is easily readable. This infographic is a great example of using compelling text to grab the attention of the reader:
Meanwhile, using powerful graphics and high-quality images promotes a visually appealing design that can make your topic seem more interesting to patients.
Visuals stimulate the imagination and improve the learning process, so use icons and illustrations in your handouts to represent statistics and other complicated information to help patients learn more efficiently. Here is an example of a template that maximizes the use of icons:
Diabetes prevention infographic
Infographics combine pictures, colors, and text which naturally draw the eye. They are effective tools for presenting charts, statistics, and other data and information that people usually find a hard time digesting. With a well-designed infographic, you can make any content memorable and persuasive.
This template is a perfect example of an infographic that uses attention-grabbing colors, text, and layout which you can use to convey information about diabetes and motivate readers to take preventative measures:
Using infographics, you can condense a large amount of information and create a complete guide to diabetes management to facilitate a better understanding of medication usage, blood glucose monitoring, meal planning, and other self-care skills necessary for the prevention of life-threatening complications. Here is a simple infographic template you can customize to fit the topics you need to discuss with patients:
Other diabetes education materials
Diagrams are great visual formatting devices that are used to explain relationships and connections between two different — usually abstract — things. They are easy to understand and they prompt readers to make intelligent comparisons and conclusions. You can use a diagram for diabetes education to show cause-and-effect relationships or demonstrate processes and procedures.
Here is a fishbone diagram template that you can use to enumerate the different factors that lead to the development of diabetes:
To summarize: Diabetes education can be simplified and improved through effective visuals.
Using effective instructional materials can promote a better learning experience for patients, which can significantly contribute to the improvement of their condition.
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