Blood glucose awareness: The first step to lowering diabetes costs

Diabetes costs $322 billion per year in the U.S. Help empower consumers for a healthier bottom line.

If health plan members are aware of their health statistics, they can know if they are, or are not, in the appropriate health ranges. It is a first step toward empowering members to take charge of their health. 

But most people do not know their biometrics, according to a recent HealthMine survey of 561 consumers. Specifically, the survey found that 83% of consumers do not know, or track, their blood-glucose level. The cost of ignorance about diabetes is colossal, adding up to $322 billion per year, according to the American Diabetes Association. That figure includes loss of productivity due to illness and disability. That means American consumers-even those who are healthy-are each paying $1,000 a year for diabetes.

"Chronic illness is a huge cost to health plans but averting it and managing it down to the individual level can improve the health of the group and lower overall costs," says Bryce Williams, CEO and president of HealthMine. Forty-nine percent of Americans have one or more chronic diseases-many do not know it.

The survey also found:

  • 81% of people don't know their cholesterol level;

  • 79% of people don't know their Body Mass Index; and

  • 68% of people don't know their blood pressure.

Williams offers three ways managed care executives can help manage members’ blood-glucose levels:

#1. Help identify those at risk for diabetes.

#2. Help avert diabetes by encouraging members to maintain a regimen of diet and exercise.

#3. Ensure adherence to the proper medications.

Williams also says health plans should implement to programs to help members know and track their average blood sugar over time with an A1C test and know their health status.

"Follow recommended preventive health actions and find out risks," Williams says. "Aggregate both clinical and wellness data across many sources to present it in one meaningful way to the individual."

He also recommends a rules-based expert system that measures individual health data against clinical criteria, then automatically recommends personalized health actions for each member. Results of the clinical analysis highlight the riskiest aspects of health, he says.

"Empower members with knowledge and guidance of what to do and when to do it," Williams says, adding that plans should provide health support articles, videos, tools and support forums. "Guide members and motivate towards improvement."

Finally, plans should help track members' progress and provide rewards for successes, says Williams. "Track both positive behaviors and positive outcomes and reward those [members] that make the effort [to improve] with points, redeemable for things such as gift cards, fitness devices, entries into large sweepstakes, and discounts on the costs of healthcare."