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Using Social Media to Dispel Misinformation for People With Diabetes

hormonal health-diabetes-endocronologist
hormonal health-diabetes-endocronologist
Dr. Arti Thangudu | Photo by Sarah Quiara

Endocrinologist Dr. Arti Thangudu (drartithangudu on Instagram) has used her social media platform to spread evidence-backed hormonal health information since she started her practice.

Could you tell us about how you have been able to balance your role as a healthcare professional with your presence on social media?

I started on social media in 2019, which was around the same time that I started my practice. I noticed throughout my fellowship in traditional practice that there’s so much hormone misinformation out there. And at that time, there were no other endocrinologists online, or any that had a vocal presence on social media — it was all people talking about hormones in ways that didn’t make scientific sense.

We were seeing a lot of patients being harmed by this misinformation. People were taking supplements that were really dangerous, or they were ending up in the hospital with toxicosis or atrial fibrillation from this misinformation. And we were seeing it at least once a week that somebody was being harmed by hormonal misinformation spread by non-experts.

I talked to another endocrinologist and they were like, “No one’s going to take you seriously if you’re on social media. You don’t want those crazy people like to know who you are.” But our patients need to have a voice. We’re the ones who have studied this, we’re the ones who have thousands of hours of clinical experience with patients, we should be the ones educating our patients. That led me to start my social media in 2019. It grew organically and I posted what I thought was important and what I thought was timely.

What are some of the current biggest challenges for people with diabetes?

One of the biggest things people are facing is bias. I think cultural bias — and maybe even bias among healthcare providers — toward patients living with diabetes is really strong. I read a study that showed that the majority of providers who care for people with diabetes have a negative bias toward them, and the majority of providers are disgusted by their patients living with obesity.

There’s even more bias in terms of GLP-1 receptor agonists being so expensive and popularized, and people start to think, “Do these people deserve this medication?” And it’s not about deserving. We use the tools we have available to help a person, the same things that cause obesity cause hypertension and heart disease. But nobody’s sitting here saying, “Oh, that person doesn’t deserve their blood pressure medication.” It’s not right, and it doesn’t make sense.

How do you approach educating and advocating for diabetes awareness to combat these misconceptions and foster a more supportive environment?

It’s important is to make sure my patients feel supported, and that they understand that while maybe everybody else they come across may have a bias toward them, I think are worthy, because they are.

If you make them feel better, that’s going to help motivate them to do things that will get them to be healthier, whether that’s mentally, physically, or both. If we can create this attitude of supporting patients and addressing biases, I think that is the only way forward, because otherwise, the patients are sitting there thinking, “Is my doctor judging me? Does this person think I deserve care?”

So, I think being straightforward about it and addressing it right away really helps me forge that connection with the patient. Then they can go home and spread that energy to whomever it is they are dealing with, or living with, and who may be suffering from the same stigma. The thing you’ll often hear me say is that people don’t choose to have diabetes, right? That’s a ridiculous thought to ever have. It’s not their fault.

What are some of the biggest innovations in diabetes management and how are these devices helping to improve patient outcomes?

Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) was the first thing that completely revolutionized care. Even when I was in fellowship, CGM was fairly new and was not used very much. But now, most people living with type 1 at least have a CGM, and so do many people living with type 2.

Now we have a lot more tech. We have hybrid closed loop insulin pumps, bionic pancreases, we have and much more, all of which I think are great. They make life a lot easier for a lot of people using them who used to use older technologies. These also decrease the burden of finger sticks, which are painful, difficult, and not easy to use in public places.

There’s some AI, which I think is really promising in diabetes as far as interpretation of CGMs. The problem is that some of those companies are targeting healthy people who don’t have diabetes. And CGM is unreliable in people who don’t have diabetes, and that can cause a lot of anxiety.

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