Medtronic Q&A: Christopher Martinez, RN, WCC talks about his role as a Medtronic Turning Point health partner at Wesley Health & Wellness Center

CMMethodist Healthcare Ministries of South Texas Inc., has recently collaborated with Medtronic, a global leader in medical technology, to introduce the Medtronic Turning Point program to Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ patients with diabetes. As part of the program, patients work alongside a health partner and track their diabetes information on an innovative phone app. We sat down with Christopher Martinez, RN, WCC, a Medtronic Turning Point health partner housed at Wesley Health & Wellness Center – a clinic owned and operated by Methodist Healthcare Ministries – who is dedicated to helping patients succeed.

Q: What’s your role at Wesley Health & Wellness Center?
I’m the face-to-face representative for Medtronic. I have an assigned group of 8-10 patients, and I’m their health partner. Besides enrolling patients in the program and helping them with any equipment troubleshooting, I review their patient profile and look at how they’re doing with their diabetes.

Q: How does the Medtronic program work?
It’s a six-month program. We do our best to keep patients engaged with in-person or phone call check-ins, and our patients agree to keep an open line of communication with us. Patients use a smartphone which contains a free app they use to monitor their diabetes progress, and information gets routed to a Wesley Health & Wellness Center health educator and me. If we see something that needs to be addressed, the health educator relays that directly to the patient’s physician. That way we’re doing it sooner rather than later, since waiting until the patient’s next appointment could lead to complications.

Q: How can you join the program?
Methodist Healthcare Ministries offers this program to its patients free of charge. Wesley Health & Wellness Center’s health educators first screen Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ patients to make sure they meet the program’s enrollment criteria. For example, candidates must be 18 years or older, have an A1C level of nine or above, have some understanding of smartphone use, etc. If they meet the criteria, the health educator informs the patient of the Medtronic program and if they’re interested I get the green light. I meet with the patient – and with the health educator to keep that rapport – and I’ll explain the program in more detail. If the patient then wishes to enroll, they’re given all program related materials and education is initiated. Sometimes we even work with a patient’s family member. You find that a lot in the Hispanic community; the wife takes care of the husband and prepares his meals and gives him medication.

Q: How does the app work?
The app tracks a number of things besides blood glucose levels. Based on our conversations, and on their medications, I teach the patient how to utilize the best trackers for their care. For example, if they have a rapid-acting insulin that needs to be adjusted per meal, then we make sure they check their sugar prior to every meal and they document it on the app. They can even photograph their meal and send it to me, and I can count their carbs. I then help them do their own carb counting. We can track their blood pressure, sleep patterns, weight, and then decipher the data and trends. There are so many things we can do to empower them to become more independent … and that’s the goal. In six months, I want to provide them with enough information so they can independently manage their diabetes and understand how it relates to their diet, activity, rest, stress and medication.

Q: How’s the dynamic at Wesley Health & Wellness Center?
We’re the intermediary between the patient and the clinic. We’re not here to replace any of the many disciplines at Wesley Health & Wellness Center that do a great job; we’re here to enhance what they’re trying to do. The clinic is kind of like a one-stop shop. I’m blown away by all the services. As a health partner, I think, “Oh you’re having problems with that? Guess what, Wesley has this health class or exercise program you can tap into.” It makes my job easier.

Q: How do you advise patients?
I let them know how they’re doing in the program with an average or estimated A1C to give them awareness and help them succeed. If I see elevated blood sugar, I ask what they may have eaten and we discuss how they can prevent that from going higher/lower next time. It can be difficult to manage your diabetes after you leave the clinic so we try to give guidance and fill that void. We calm patients, or if necessary, we advise them to move up their doctor’s appointments so their diabetes doesn’t get so severe they need to go to the emergency room. We help patients meet their goals and get their A1C lower. There’s a lot of myth in diabetes. Some think, “When I was a kid, I drank a lot of soda and that’s why I have diabetes.” But it doesn’t work that way. It’s important to touch on that because it can affect patients.

Q: How have you seen the program succeed?
We’ve recently obtained information on how well the program is working. Some patients’ diabetes is severe. I recall the highest A1C I saw was 13%, and we were able to bring that down. While results may vary, on average we’ve been able to bring A1C numbers down 2.0 points amongst Methodist Healthcare Ministries’ patients. I have patients that have shown remarkable results with their A1C in the six-month duration – some as early as four months!

Q: What are some of your favorite patient stories?
I had one patient who was extremely happy she was getting dentures – the ones that snap into place, not just the adhesive kind. I had connected her with Wesley’s dental services. She asked me, “I don’t have teeth, why should I go to dental?” After explaining why and working side-by-side with Wesley’s health educators, she was ecstatic saying, “Next time you see me you’re going to see me with a beautiful smile!” It was so sweet.

One of my patients lost more than 20 pounds within the first four months. I helped talk her through her diet and exercise, and her energy levels got higher and her blood sugar got better. It’s a big deal. Her family took note of that and praised her. She also became the center of attention at her church to spread that ‘you too can do it.’ She’s a rockstar in her church community.

Another patient of mine who’s a chef at a ministry has now gotten his assistants to prepare healthy meals. He’s spreading that knowledge and experience in the ministry. He’s even got his running shoes now – he leads a walking group.

You can’t help but develop sort of a level of friendship; you develop that rapport.

Q: How do you help patients the most?
I think it’s the fact that we’re there for patients, providing a wealth of knowledge. One main struggle with diabetes in knowledge deficit. There’s so much to learn about it. Sometimes it can be overwhelming for a patient, so we take it slow. They can take their blood sugar, but after taking 2-4 a day you can get lost in those numbers, so it’s helpful when you can put it into perspective. We try to help modify some of their behaviors, through diet, exercise or medication compliance and we hold them accountable. Not strict, but we do hold them accountable. I take every opportunity to teach something. Patients don’t make mistakes; I just look at it as ‘what can we do differently.’ When you hear them repeat your same words 3-4 phone calls later, it’s cool to know they’ve learned and are applying it to their care plan.

Q: What’s something you’ve learned?
We’ve created a foundation with Wesley Health & Wellness Center. The clinic has played a huge role in how we’ve polished our processes. I’m grateful for that. We’ve learned a lot. We now try to maintain the same model with other clinics. I’ve got nothing but love for Wesley.