Connectivity for diabetes care in the new normal
E. Graeme Harvey, Digital Product Marketing Manager at Roche, developed the Accu-Chek Snap and is leading the development of the Roche Diabetes Care Platform. Here he writes about what the future of diabetes management might look like.
As the US works towards opening up, what is the safest way forward for people with diabetes? What is the new normal for everyday diabetes management that will result in optimal blood glucose control and positive outcomes? How will consultations with healthcare professionals be handled? Many questions, yes, but the solutions have the same foundation: advanced technology that enables efficient and effective virtual connectivity.
The prevalence of diabetes will increase by 54% to more than 54.9 million Americans between 2015 and 2030, and this chronic disease continues to be a significant strain on the healthcare system. Studies show the ability to personalise treatment improves clinical outcomes and reduces costs.
Connectivity using advanced data management tools and resources will play a significant role by supporting doctors, hospitals and clinics with efficient and effective processes that enable faster, more accurate decision-making and better patient-doctor collaboration that improve patient adherence to treatment, understanding and self-management.
To be sure, the COVID-19 pandemic threw the spotlight on the role of technology in diabetes management, but its growth has been underway for some time. Telemedicine technology for patient consultations, for example, is an increasingly valuable resource that was quickly recognized by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) when it broadened access to Medicare teleheath services, so beneficiaries could receive a wider range of remote services from healthcare providers.
Additionally, one-on-one digital services such as app-based logging and personalised coaching from a variety of sources, such as mySugr, help guide compliance and goal achievement, especially while people stayed at home.
As restrictions continue to lift, seamless connectivity among people – both those with diabetes and their healthcare providers, including the pharmacist - will increase in importance. What’s next is the addition of connectivity among people, products and data.
People with diabetes utilise a number of devices and tools in their daily lives, such as disease management tools like blood glucose monitors, apps for diet and tracking tools for fitness such as FitBits. Digital solutions that track and store this information and then align it with clinical data, like blood sugar patterns, will allow for more efficient virtual consultations, enabling providers to manage resources and triage patient concerns quickly and easily.
All this information can only be valuable if it is easily accessible. This raises issues of security for digital collection and storage. Digital health and its ability to continue to be leveraged by health care systems and trusted by the patients is predicated on the healthcare systems and industry working together, to make sure data is protected to the nth degree.
The post-pandemic world will unfold in many ways that cannot be anticipated. However, based on what we know now, and can anticipate for diabetes care moving forward, digital connectivity is key.
Technology that collects and harmonises data from different devices, facilitates better communication, improves consultations and streamlines the workflow for both the clinic and the patient are all within reach. It is a future I am excited to be invested in, and believe it will continue to revolutionise the way diabetes is treated, managed and even prevented.
How health plans can reduce healthcare inequalities
The COVID-19 pandemic has put inequalities accessing the healthcare system in the spotlight. Jim Clement, Vice President of Product & Services at cloud provider Inovalon, tells us that health plans play the most integral role in advancing the health equity movement.
Why did it a global pandemic to highlight the issue of healthcare inequities?
Health inequity in the US has been well understood by healthcare professionals for many years, but it has become more evident due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It wasn’t until the racial and ethnic differential seen in response to COVID-19 related infections, deaths and vaccinations that many Americans became acutely aware of the health inequity due to sociodemographic factors such as race, geography, education and income.
Fortunately, there’s now a growing health equity movement afoot in America which aims to improve public health and achieve equity in health status for all people by ensuring opportunities are available to attain the highest level of health. While the entire healthcare ecosystem is important to this transformation, it is health plans that arguably play the most integral role.
How can health plans help?
Achieving health equity means obstacles to health must be removed, including poverty, discrimination, powerlessness, and lack of access to the basics like physicians, hospitals, medicine, technology, and health education. This is not only a social justice initiative, but also a clear call to action for health plan organisations that are bearing the economic brunt of the costs due to health disparities.
Health plan organisations that recognise the alignment between efforts to improve health equity and broader member engagement initiatives will be in the best position to move the needle. Plans must also understand that the provision of medical services within hospital walls, physician offices and other health services providers is necessary, but not sufficient.
By recognising that health inequity also includes non-medical factors such as employment, income, housing, transportation, childcare, and more, plans will be better equipped to ensure their members are set up for success.
What do healthcare providers need to do generally to address inequities?
Outreach by both health plans and providers is critical to ensuring people have knowledge of available services, the reason those services are critical to their health, and options to access those services based on their unique circumstances. With both stakeholders beating the same drum, progress can be made quickly.
Given the impact of social determinants of health (SDOH), should healthcare providers take a more active role in addressing these, or other agencies?
While communicating with patients is critically important, what is truly required to address inequalities is helping patients take medical actions – like regular PCP visits, monitoring A1C and accepting health coaching – that are necessary to maximise their health, along with non-medical actions –like availing themselves of community resources that address homelessness, food insecurity and employment services.
The most progressive providers and payers have or are putting in place programs to address these non-medical issues. In addition, non-medical tools such as transportation services can certainly help drive the effectiveness of medical services.
How important is it to educate patients about their health and how can this be done?
Education is a social determinant of health and a key lever to be used to drive health equity. Patients who do not understand their medical conditions or the consequences of non-compliance with their treatment plans are prone to poor outcomes.
For health plans, understanding member needs is one of the biggest drivers of quality care. A continuous cycle of engagement through feedback and appropriate responses will provide health plans with an opportunity to uncover, discuss, and resolve problems faster.
Improving member outreach and engagement can be made easier with a programmatic approach involving four stages of intentional outreach: Getting to know your members, educating members, seeking feedback from members and gaining member loyalty. Each stage not only contributes to a better member experience but also to improved outcomes and higher satisfaction scores.
Now that the issue has come to the fore, what do you think things will look like in 5 years or so?
I predict that health plans that get member engagement, education and equity right will achieve better health and greater value, faster. Those who get it wrong or delay will suffer the consequences of competitive disadvantage and pay a larger share of the rising costs associated with health inequity.