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How digital care programs are revolutionizing employee diabetes care in the age of COVID

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The modern diabetes care experience is broken. Today, patients with diabetes are asked to navigate a maze of specialty providers and bear the burden of complicated self-monitoring simply to keep their condition in check. The siloed care model isn’t simply costly for patients and those responsible for their care; it’s demoralizing, exacerbating mental health effects of a chronic disease, and creating a reinforcing cycle of non-adherence.

On top of this, the COVID pandemic has made regular physician visits which normally serve as a critical touch point for diabetes patients less safe, and easily canceled. More than 200 healthcare professionals from 47 countries rank diabetes as the condition that will be most impacted by the reduction in healthcare resources due to COVID-19. According to a recent JAMA study, there have been substantial decreases in primary care delivery during the COVID pandemic, despite the rapid uptick in the use of virtual care visits. In the absence of effective in-person care for diabetes during the pandemic, and with synchronous telemedicine visits with physicians alone unable to provide the continuous support needed for effective diabetes self-management, forward-thinking employers are turning to digital care programs for diabetes to support their workers.

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In the last few months, we’ve seen how vital and motivating human connection is to our mental and physical health. COVID-19 has shone a light on the gaps in the traditional healthcare system, and the need for deeply human, digital solutions on a scale we couldn’t have previously imagined. According to Evidation Health, gaps are “looming on the horizon, with more than half of the individuals with type 2 diabetes, hypertension, migraine and many more conditions not yet substituting care.”

Fortunately, digital diabetes care, often supported by a connected continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) system, offers a different path forward. Continuous glucose monitoring — in combination with virtual coaching — holds the potential to improve health outcomes for employees with diabetes during and after this pandemic. We’ve always known that the best diabetes care has been focused on each patient’s individual needs. But COVID has made the need for personalized care even more important. Every individual has unique challenges they are dealing with during this “new normal.”

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The expansion of digital diabetes care that incorporates continuous glucose monitoring along with proactive feedback from a coach and personalized resources can support people with diabetes as they navigate these challenges. By helping employees understand the connection between their day-to-day choices and glucose levels, effective digital diabetes care can serve as the connective tissues these individuals need to thrive, even in today’s circumstances. By pairing accurate, and easily recorded, remote monitoring with personalized coaching guidance and all other elements of an accredited Diabetes Self-Management program, employers have the opportunity to both lift the burden of diabetes from their workforce, and make critical gains in employee health and productivity.

Chronic conditions like diabetes require constant, long term management with a focus on areas like reducing stress, taking medications, monitoring, and getting routine lab tests. It’s why the CDC strongly recommends Diabetes Self Management Education and Support (DSMES) as a cost-effective tool to improve A1c levels, blood pressure, medication adherence, as well as reduced hospital admissions and healthcare costs. Yet access remains a major challenge. Only 6.8% of privately insured individuals used in-person DSMES programs — and those percentages preceded the latest care disruptions discussed above.

As the pandemic makes regular clinic visits less accessible for patients, it’s critical that employees managing diabetes have access to support that fits their lifestyle, and is accessible when they need it most. It’s never been more important to educate and empower employees to embrace high-value, sustainable care. Accessible, safe, and effective digital diabetes care holds the potential to improve health outcomes for people with diabetes and the employers and health plans that support them during and after this pandemic. By investing in deeply personalized digital care solutions, you can deliver not only a better employee experience, but ultimately better health outcomes and savings for your employees.

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