SAN DIEGO—When service members leave active duty and receive healthcare in a different setting, care for conditions such as diabetes can suffer.

A study in Military Medicine pointed out that changes in healthcare have been shown to decrease diabetes care compliance and diabetes self-management, which has led to exacerbation in diabetes symptoms and increased healthcare expenditure.1

“A seamless transition in healthcare management from active duty to veteran status has the potential to maintain or increase diabetes self-management,” wrote the study team, led by researchers from the University of San Diego, Hahn School of Nursing and Health Sciences.

“A gap in the literature exists regarding the transition process between healthcare systems, including the DoD and VA. This paper describes the transition experience of a sample of veterans with diabetes from active duty to veteran status.”

To do that, researchers used a semi-structured questionnaire developed for the study to document the experiences of veterans diagnosed with diabetes while on active duty. Quantitative instruments S-TOFHLA and DDS were used as measurements of potential barriers to diabetes self-management and navigating or adjusting to a changed priority within a healthcare system.

Study authors documented two main themes expressed by participants:

  • unplanned and undesired end of a military career, and
  • feeling prepared to leave the military.

The quantitative measures indicated that all participants had adequate health literacy and no distress from diabetes.

In fact, study participants reported consistent compliance in diabetes self-management, according to the study.

“Skills and attitudes obtained during military service led to participants’ desire to manage their healthcare with determination to cope with challenges accompanying diabetes,” the authors concluded. “The healthcare transition process would benefit from additional exploration of veterans’ needs. Improved processes may facilitate the healthcare management transition of personnel with diabetes from active duty to veteran status.”

Malebranche M, Burkard J, Georges J, Bittleman D. The Veterans With Diabetes Transition Study. Veterans Experience of the Process of Transition Following Active Duty Diagnosis. Mil Med. 2019 Jan 24. doi: 10.1093/milmed/usy351. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 30690514.