Article

Planning for Winter Weather Emergencies Critical for Endocrinology Clinics

Proactive phone calls help patients manage medicine supply

Tire driving over a snowy road

Proactive outreach to patients to encourage preparation for winter weather emergencies is a critical step for endocrinology clinics working with individuals who require measured medication at regular intervals.

Patients with diabetes should be contacted when potential severe weather approaches and advised to secure enough insulin and other medications for at least a three-to-four-day time period, advises Bryan Batch, MD, MHS, a Duke endocrinologist.

In addition to patients with diabetes, endocrinologists should similarly prepare patients with adrenal insufficiency, thyroid disease, or pituitary abnormalities—conditions that may require daily medications—to extend or renew prescriptions and encourage personal preparation.

Batch encourages physicians in the Division of Endocrinology, Metabolism, and Nutrition as well as their counterparts in regional practices to develop emergency plans for patients and clinics well before ice or snow creates hazardous weather conditions and restricts traveling.

During severe weather, clinics often face an internal staffing challenge, which makes proactive patient outreach more important. A weather emergency plan should be prepared by every clinic, Batch says.

Endocrinologists should focus on those patients with conditions that present the most significant life-threatening risk,” says Batch. “Keep an eye on the highest risk situations. Clinicians know which of their patients are in this category.
Bryan Batch, MD, Duke endocrinologist

“Endocrinologists should focus on those patients with conditions that present the most significant life-threatening risk,” says Batch. “Keep an eye on the highest risk situations. Clinicians know which of their patients are in this category.”

Batch says that several studies of weather events have shown that extended time without power can have long-term consequences, such as increases in HbA1c levels and blood pressure, that should be considered when communicating with patients. Access to groceries may be limited during an emergency, so patients should be encouraged to buy foods that are appropriate for their condition in advance, she adds.

It may be challenging for physicians to contact patients while maintaining daily appointments, but she encourages a team approach when constructing a plan for patient outreach during emergencies.

In rare situations where evacuation is required, Batch encourages patients who are able to travel to go to a location where a pharmacy or hospital is likely to be operating normally. “Endocrinologists can provide a great deal of guidance over the phone but there is no substitution for urgent and emergency care when needed,” she says.