The Power of Person-Centric Care

Brigitte Piniewski, MD is a Healthcare executive with industry experience from all angles: she spent years as a front-line clinician, a population health executive, researcher, author and strategic partnerships lead. She has long respected the value of crowd health experiences to accurately and uniquely inform best practices.

Sam was a typical dad with three teenagers and a dog. Most days were spent with long hours at the office or watching sports on T.V. He rarely refused fast food… until the day everything changed.

While Sam was at work he became alarming confused. His co-workers decided to bring him to a  nearby emergency room. A quick peek at his labs (Glucose 939 mg/dL, Triglycerides 6701 mg/dL, HbA1c 11.5% and High-density Lipoproteins a dismal 13 mg/dL) suggested Type II Diabetes. Really, that fast? How could one moment he be “perfect” and the next suffering from a devastating chronic disease? Sam’s pancreas had likely struggled to manage his blood sugars for years. Furthermore, he may have dismissed symptoms of thirst or excess urination as somewhat “normal” for him.

Sam was discharged from the hospital with several prescriptions, including insulin injections. He was staring into a future of medical bills, pharmacy and doctor visits, a strong possibility of future heart disease, kidney failure, neuropathy, and impotence. However, his diabetes educators, Susie Reiner, and  Miles Hassell M.D., suggested he might be able to reject this future if he were to adopt a Mediterranean diet and begin a daily exercise routine. This sounds simple, but it is often difficult to accomplish long term.

Sam wasn’t a stranger to hard work. Each day, he began with a brisk walk before breakfast.  Sugar and flour were recognized as the enemy, and he avoided all sweets, bread and baked goods. Eleven months later, his weight had dropped from 212 pounds to 155 and his labs improved dramatically (Glucose 102 mg/dL, Triglycerides 75 mg/dL, HbA1c 4.9% and High-Density Lipoprotein 39 mg/dL). His physician stopped all four of the meds that were started that fateful day.. Now, 6 years later, Sam is still without meds. Most days, he feels good and continues his attention to healthy behaviors.

It’s not uncommon to be unaware that a serious illness may be brewing. According to the American Diabetes Association, up to a third of folks with diabetes may be undiagnosed.It is, however, almost unheard of to successfully reverse diabetes long term. There is no simple medicine or treatment that can do this. The 20 or 30 small daily changes that Sam had made worked together to significantly impact his health. With more than 1.4 million new individuals diagnosed with diabetes every year in the US, capturing Sam’s experience and sharing may save others from this same fate.

Increasingly, as our busy lives drive us deeper into unhealthy lifestyles we will need to rely on digital tools and the crowd-in-our-pocket (Peer Health) for access to the recommendations that are likely to work in real life. 

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