Diabetes management has come a very long way since the first blood glucose meters hit the market in the 1980s. Prior to this breakthrough technology, most patients had their blood sugar levels checked and their medications adjusted four times a year during visits to the clinician’s office. During the long months between the two, patients were largely left guessing how to approach many aspects of their diabetes treatment and management plans.
Over the past 40 years, advances from device and drug manufacturers have transformed the way we monitor and manage diabetes. Patients can now monitor their blood sugar at five-minute intervals and adopt devices with an algorithm to automatically deliver insulin, add carbs, and track various related health metrics in real time.
Although these technologies are much more sophisticated, they still create different challenges that need to be overcome. We are now asking patients to become data scientists by analyzing and reacting to charts and numbers throughout the day. At the same time, patients are responsible for navigating their insurance benefits and managing feedback from all stakeholders seeking to inform and influence how the patient self-manages their disease.
Unfortunately, patients don’t always have the education and support they need to be successful in using their devices, interpreting the plethora of numbers generated, and incorporating key insights into their diabetes journey.
There is a critical and untapped opportunity to ensure patients have a clear and direct path to better self-management by leveraging one of the most sensitive relationships for someone with diabetes: their connection to their device. and supply distributors.
Distributors typically interact with patients at least once a month during the diabetic supply delivery process, creating an organic opportunity to connect with those who may need additional support to manage their own health.
Distributors can and should expand to fill gaps in device training and actively support the work of providers and health plans. This innovative approach holds great promise for ensuring a smooth patient journey and allowing people with type 2 diabetes to live healthier lives.
The Complex Challenges of Managing Diabetes in Today’s Healthcare Environment
People with diabetes often interact with multiple healthcare providers, including a primary care physician, endocrinologist, dietician, and diabetes educator. Each stakeholder has a role to play. However, it can be challenging to coordinate care, particularly around advancing patient self-management skills. This can lead to less than optimal patient outcomes and satisfaction.
Without true coordination of care, patients can receive conflicting information or simply be overwhelmed with feedback and ideas from providers, payers, device manufacturers, pharmacists, and other members of the care team.
For example, some patients may be overwhelmed with the thought of installing and using a new device. They could just put the newly delivered box in a cupboard and close the door. If no one follows the integration, the expensive device can simply sit idle.
Patients deserve options to control their diabetes. Education about new supplies and devices should come from a trusted source who knows when new devices have been prescribed and how patients can best learn to use diabetes technology and management tools.
Leverage distributors to deliver device training in the right place at the right time
Distributors may not be a priority when considering another proactive diabetes management partner, but there are several clear reasons why they should be more involved in onboarding, education and support.
On the one hand, there is a worrying shortage of clinicians providing diabetes care. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic which led to burnout of healthcare workers, the country faced a shortfall of 2,700 diabetes specialists by 2025 and 48,000 primary care physicians by 2025. 2034.
It will be essential to support the remaining workforce in any way possible. Distributors of supplies and devices have the knowledge, resources, and bandwidth to augment the work of overburdened clinicians.
Distributors typically interact with patients between 10 and 15 times per year, starting from the first moment of diagnosis. Each of these touchpoints is an opportunity to provide real-time device training, offer education on self-management techniques and the importance of treatment adherence, and relay critical information to providers. health care.
Bringing in an established and trusted entity to unite the continuum of care and proactively address gaps in patient care will be crucial, especially as value-based care arrangements continue to expand and that the responsibility for holistic and coordinated care increases.
A call for more involvement from the distributor community
Distributors have a promising and exciting opportunity to step into a new role in diabetes care. These companies sit at the crossroads of clinical, payer and consumer environments, perfectly positioned to build stronger connections between the three groups and help individuals navigate the complex healthcare system.
A number of distributors are already taking advantage of this opportunity by engaging accredited clinicians to inform their next steps and developing patient-friendly educational programs to better balance the use of digital tools with the human side of the patient journey. diabetes.
The key to making these efforts as effective as possible is to close the feedback loop between primary care providers, payers, pharmacies, device manufacturers and specialists. This will require continued investment in data interoperability and care coordination workflows. While it’s not easy, sharing information is worth it and essential to creating better patient experiences and outcomes.
Increased involvement of supply and device vendors can go a long way in supporting patients using diabetes technologies and other complex therapies and ensuring long-term adherence.
By expanding the education and support team to include distributors of supplies and devices, patients will be better able to access the tools and knowledge they need to effectively manage their health.