Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine patients' diabetes risk factors, comorbid conditions, and patient participation in and primary care practitioner (PCP) referrals to a rural diabetes self-management education (DSME) program.
Methods: A total of 295 patients in a rural community were identified by their PCP as having type 2 diabetes (T2D). Using patient information that was collected and entered into a diabetes data management system, patients' risk factors, comorbid conditions, and patient participation in and PCP referral patterns to a DSME program were examined.
Results: Of the 295 patients with T2D, 162 (65%) reported that they had never received any DSME services. Despite educator efforts to improve patient participation and PCP awareness of local DSME services, 123 (76%) of the 162 patients never received a subsequent referral for DSME. Those patients who did receive a referral had a higher number of risk factors and comorbid conditions than those who did not receive a referral. Eighty-three percent of the patients who received a PCP referral attended the DSME program.
Conclusions: The findings reaffirm concerns that DSME patient participation and PCP referral practices are poor. Advocacy efforts should force policies and procedures that will make DSME a mandatory service and universally accessible. Unless referral practices are attended to, it is doubtful that the United States will reach the Healthy People 2010 objective for diabetes education.