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Rob Danoff, DO, of Aria Health System, explains what should be done to reduce health management costs, while improving care of diabetic patients.
According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA), more than 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. In addition, it’s estimated that diabetes goes undetected in almost one of four Americans. As diabetes continues to remain one of the top leading causes of death in the United Sates, the ADA estimates that the total cost of diabetes in the United States stands at $245 billion, which means one in five healthcare dollars is spent treating diabetes and its complications.
Furthermore, the ADA reports that another 86 million people have been diagnosed with pre-diabetes, which means that they have higher than average levels of blood sugar. Without testing, people do not know they have this condition. If left untreated or ignored, many individuals with pre-diabetes will develop diabetes (usually type 2).
Danoff“The numbers of those affected by pre-diabetes and diabetes are significant, the health threat to the country is real, and the costs of treating the complications are high, both physically, emotionally, and monetarily,” says Rob Danoff, DO, MS, FACOFP, program director, Family Medicine Residency, and program director, Combined Family Medicine/Emergency Medicine Residency, Aria Health System, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. “In light of this, managed care and evidence-based medicine are launching key initiatives to help individuals with diabetes work together with their physicians toward a healthier quality of life and better diabetes control.”
Now, Danoff tells Managed Healthcare Executive what should be done to reduce costs, while improving care of diabetic patients.
MHE: What are the best strategies to improve care associated with managing diabetic patients?
Danoff: Closing the gaps in care is critical. Key initiatives involve having healthcare providers work with diabetic patients to adhere to treatment regimens and monitor for potential problems while helping them to implement healthy lifestyle choices. These include having regular check ups, having preventive screenings and immunizations, taking prescribed medications, testing blood sugar levels and A1C levels regularly, checking cholesterol levels annually, having an annual eye exam, having foot exams periodically, testing kidney function several times annually, evaluating coping skills, committing to an exercise program, and making healthy food choices.
MHE: What are the best strategies to reduce costs associated with managing diabetic patients?
Danoff: By helping to better control diabetes, patients can achieve a better and healthier quality of life. Preventive health screenings will help to reduce upfront costs of potential complications related to uncontrolled diabetes, such as a heart attack, stroke, kidney failure, loss of vision, skin infections, nerve pain, and difficulty walking properly due to loss of sensation in the feet. All of these outcomes have the potential to result in many lost days of productivity at work, and are quite costly to treat.
MHE: Can you cite and discuss a specific initiative a health plan has taken in an effort to reduce spending on diabetes care?
Danoff: A great example is the UnitedHealthcare Diabetes Health Plan, which offers reduced costs for diabetes-related doctor visits, medication, programs to help manage diabetes, and personal appointment reminders. In addition, the program offers patients diagnosed with diabetes a connected network of trained pharmacists who can provide one-on-one support to assist with diabetes education.
MHE: How can diabetic patients best take advantage of health plan offerings to better manage their disease?
Danoff: Patients are encouraged to speak with health plan advisors about the different types of services they offer, including preventive screenings, visits with physicians, free blood glucose monitors, and case management services to assist patients with appointments, necessary equipment, and access to registered dieticians. Healthcare providers are now taking a more active role in helping to ensure that their insured customers have access to needed services, medication, and equipment.