ADA's Online Chat Offers Instant Answers
In today's digital world, most people can access a glut of health information with the click of a mouse. But sifting through pages of search engine results and navigating voluminous Web sites can be a difficult way to find the answer to a specific question. The American Diabetes Association is providing another tool for people who want their diabetes questions answered online and quickly: a live Web chat service operated through ADA's National Call Center.
Chat With Us is a free instant-messaging tool that offers the call center's one-on-one assistance and requires no special computer downloads or applications. All you need to do is make sure your Web browser will allow pop-ups.
Then go to diabetes.org, and click on the chat link on the home page. If you don't see a link, you can click on About Us or enter the search term National Call Center to get to the site's call center page. An icon will pop up on your screen if a call center representative is available to chat online with you. The icon appears as a small speech bubble in the upper right-hand corner of various Web pages on diabetes.org. Click on the bubble and a blank area will appear; the call center rep will greet you and then you can type in your question. Call center representatives are trained to take questions from a wide range of people, from the newly diagnosed to health care professionals.
If you prefer to use e-mail instead of chat, you can reach the National Call Center at firstname.lastname@example.org
or, in Spanish, at email@example.com. And, of course, traditional phone service
is available at 1-800-DIABETES, or (800) 342-2383. Requests for diabetes education materials can be made 24 hours a day, seven days a week; after-hours calls are fielded by an answering service.
Keri Whitmer, 36, of Overland Park, Kan., used the chat to help identify an episode of hypoglycemia (low blood glucose) in her husband, who was diagnosed with type 2 early last year. "My husband was having profuse sweating one night, and the rep responded that sweating is a sign of hypoglycemia," Whitmer says. "Since I'm just beginning to learn about diabetes, this information was very helpful."
From 500 to 1,000 chatters a month have used the service since it began in January 2009, says Lee Barona, director of the National Call Center. The call center also fields around 285,000 phone calls and 30,000 e-mails per year.
Chat With Us is available during regular call center hours, from 8:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Monday through Friday. Barona cautions that call center representatives are not medical professionals and so can't provide individual medical advice. For such questions, you should contact your health care provider.
"The live chat allows for another medium [through which] our constituents can reach out to the call center at their convenience," Barona says. "We hope that through this service, ADA will be able to provide important, reliable information to an even broader group of people who are living with or affected by diabetes."