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A Company That Cares

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Diabetics find the support they need with Diabetes Management & Supplies

hn1People with diabetes don’t necessarily have to suffer. While the condition can lead to severe consequences—including amputations and blindness as well as fatal heart or kidney failure—it is also possible to live a normal, active life with diabetes. The key to is to properly manage the disease.

That’s where companies like Diabetes Management & Supplies (DMS) come in. A whole mini-industry of products that help diabetics manage their condition has sprung up around the disease, and the Harahan-based firm is one of the leaders in its field, both locally and nationally. In fact, the country’s most prominent health-care accrediting organization, the Joint Commission, recently awarded Diabetes Management & Supplies a Gold Seal of Approval.

“We’re a company exclusively for patients with diabetes,” says president and CEO Cynthia Pazos. “Because we’re a specialty company, our customers receive the most up-to-date information and in-depth knowledge available.”

The most important thing a diabetic can do, according to Pazos, is monitor glucose levels. Low episodes are dangerous and can put the patient in a sudden coma. Her company offers a full range of testing supplies, and once the patient knows his or her level, the appropriate action can be taken. If needed, insulin can be injected through a syringe, pen or pump. The disease is complex and constantly changing; it is affected by stress, diet, current levels of physical activity, medications and other factors.

Diabetes care itself is constantly changing, too. It can be confusing, even to people in the medical profession. Pazos says DMS is able to fill a gap she first noticed when her mother-in-law had the disease.

“My mother-in-law died around 15 years ago from complications stemming from type 2 diabetes. When I watched her go through her struggles, it made me realize that diabetics need a stronger support system,” Pazos says. “I was working as a sales rep for a company that sold syringes and had a lot of contact with doctors and pharmacists. I could see that she was not cared for at the level she should have been. For example, I noticed the doctor gave her a syringe for insulin injections that was not an insulin syringe.”

Normally, when a diabetic patient leaves the doctor, he or she will go to the pharmacist to pick up drugs or supplies. The pharmacist, however, has to provide guidance and fill prescriptions for every disease out there and cannot possibly keep up with all the products made just for diabetics. Pharmacists also do not have the resources to follow up with patients and see how they’re managing. And some patients, especially low-income patients who don’t have reliable transportation, may not even make it to the pharmacy when they need to and so may neglect important aspects of their care.

DMS fills in these gaps in care, according to Pazos. Patients are typically referred to the company by a physician or diabetes educator. Company reps teach patients how to use the supplies, either by talking to them on the phone or visiting them in their homes. Products are shipped, and certain patients receive calls every so often from DMS reps in order to check in, ask how things are going and see if any supplies need to be reordered. Reps also help the patients navigate the confusing world of insurance benefits.

Pazos sees insurance companies as her main allies in the fight against diabetes. “Insurance companies want to keep their members well and out of the hospital. So do we,” she says. “If they’re going to be paying for supplies anyway, they would rather come to a company like us who really focuses on care and treatment of their members.”

Furthermore, insurance companies offer more support than many diabetics realize. While most people already know about their pharmacy benefits, insurance plans also typically include a benefit for medical equipment. Certain diabetic supplies may be covered under either benefit. So DMS customer service reps examine each patient’s insurance policy and figure out the most cost-effective way for patients to receive the supplies they need.

“The medical benefit can be a lot less expensive for the patient,” says Pazos. “If we can eliminate the financial burden, that encourages testing. And testing can keep patients out of the hospital and prevent a condition from worsening.”

Another important component of DMS regards its educational outreach. The company puts together a quarterly newsletter with articles about new technology, tips and advice, and its offices contain a 2,500-square-foot education center. Sometimes the seminars held there are for professionals, such as a recent conference attended by 70 school nurses from around the state to train them on caring for kids with diabetes. But many events are free and open to the public, such as the American Diabetes Association’s Choose to Live programs, which teach healthy diet and lifestyle habits geared toward diabetics. DMS also brings in its own chef, John Wright, an alumnus of Emeril’s, to give classes on how to make Louisiana dishes friendly to diabetics.

“I started DMS over a decade ago. I wanted to form a company that would support patients with ongoing education for their disease,” says Pazos. “I know that we have kept people out of the hospital.”