A new start-up founded by a Carle Illinois College of Medicine (CI MED) medical student coaches patients to improve their diabetes management in an effort to alleviate diabetes burnout and continue healthy habits that lead to better outcomes.
The new venture is called Diabeta Coach. It targets the problem of diabetes burnout, a point where patients feel detachment from diabetes care and avoid it, such as skipping blood sugar monitoring or appointments. “These patients may feel physically or emotionally exhausted from daily diabetes management tasks, such as planning meals, pricking their fingers to check blood sugars, and injecting insulin,” Bara Saadah, Diabeta Coach founder and CI MED student said.
Saadah says he and his team provide virtual coaching sessions for patients with ‘burnout’ in managing their Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. “This coaching allows frequent follow-up to develop habits that will allow them to manage their diabetes well. This will help prevent patients from having direct or indirect diabetes complications that cause them to end up in the hospital and affect their long-term quality of life.”
The continuous coaching through Diabeta Coach fills a gap in current diabetes management support services. Patients generally meet with their endocrinologists once every three months and may be limited by their insurance companies in how often in a year they could meet with a certified diabetes educator or nutritionist. “Diabeta Coach is not meant as a replacement for medical care and appointments with an endocrinologist or diabetes educator but aims to add support through addressing feelings of burnout and distress.”
The coaching protocol starts with a 30-minute one-on-one coaching session in which the patient and the coach meet, set goals, and discuss changes that the patient believes will improve their lives. Twice-weekly follow-up coaching sessions allow the patient to provide updates, de-stress, and adjust their management strategies as needed.
One participating patient has already noticed a difference. “Diabeta Coach has helped me keep up-to-date with my diabetes management and makes sure that I’m reminded to do the things that get me in the habit of managing it,” the patient said.
Enrollment in the service is being offered free of charge during the pilot phase, but the team plans to transition to a subscription model and eventually work with insurance companies to receive reimbursement. They are currently recruiting new participants in the Champaign-Urbana area via their website, social media (@DiabetaCoach), and by email. To qualify, patients must have a diagnosis of Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes, difficulty with consistently managing their diabetes, and feeling fatigue with diabetes management. The team is not enrolling pregnant patients or those with eating disorders.
Carle Health endocrinologist Dr. Owaise Mansuri is the medical advisor for the start-up. Illinois bioengineering undergraduates Sean Tierney and Yunji Nam are co-founders and are spearheading product development and expansion.
Saadah will begin serving as a resident in psychiatry at Carle Foundation Hospital in Urbana, Illinois in July 2023. He will graduate from CI MED in May 2023.