Businesses seek new ways to manage diabetes

Most disease management (DM) programs that address diabetes do a poor job of it, relying on outmoded means of communication that fail to motivate workers, says a survey of companies belonging to the Northeast Business Group on Health (NEBGH). Diabetes is the most targeted condition of nearly half of U.S. companies with 50 employees or more that offer wellness programs that focus on lifestyle change, DM, or both, according to “Moving the Needle on Diabetes: The Employer Perspective.” The 22 companies that participated in the study collectively cover about 1 million lives.

Researchers say there’s a need for long-term planning, inasmuch as diabetes DM programs might actually increase costs when they’re launched. The lack of a generally accepted formula to gauge costs makes some employers wary. Respondents “feel the current tools for ROI assessment aren’t sufficient, which constitutes a significant barrier for present-day evaluation.”

Employers are ready to embrace digital technology and believe that apps will eventually “address the decision fatigue that people with diabetes often face.”

In the meantime, the report says employers are concerned about the digital divide among their employees, long-term adoption of digital technology, and whether quantified data will translate into sustainable behavior change.

Employers seem a little more favorably inclined toward value-based benefit design. Some NEBGH members are “employing value-based benefit design to steer employees to certain providers or use specific medications,” according to the report. Other employers, the report notes, are considering benefit plans that encourage employees to seek care at a diabetes center of excellence, where comprehensive services may be provided with a single or no copayment, in contrast to the employee being charged for each service or visit.

Source: Northeast Business Group on Health, “Moving the Needle on Diabetes: The Employers Perspective,” November 2014