Cellular technology’s role in transforming the connected health ecosystem for diabetes management

November 14th is World Diabetes Day, raising important awareness of the hundreds of millions of people living with diabetes globally and the challenges they, their families and their healthcare providers regularly face.

For people with diabetes, simplifying the management of their condition can improve the quality of their care – and, drive better engagement with their care team.

Cellular diabetes management solutions are revolutionizing the way healthcare can be approached around the world. The biggest barrier to its widespread adoption and implementation is awareness of what true connectivity can do for a person with diabetes and those managing populations with this costly chronic disease. For Ben Atkin, the founder of Smart Meter and a person living with diabetes himself, the potential of cellular technology was evident. Cellular technology could make it seamless for a person to test their blood glucose and have their results sent to the cloud, recorded automatically in their logbook and shared with their healthcare team and even concerned family members – all at an affordable price.

When cellular technology becomes the engine of a connected health ecosystem, it transforms diabetes management for patients and providers. The patient’s world is simplified. All they have to do is test. They no longer need to fight with technology to download their data, worry if the data was sent to their care provider or remember their meter when they visit their physician. They also have peace of mind that all the results are being recorded in a well-organized logbook so they can review their trends when they need to. If they choose to, they can get more sophisticated in their diabetes management with test reminders, coaching texts and sharing results with loved ones. For the healthcare team, reliable, timely, actionable data enables better decision-making actions that lead to better care, better outcomes.

Incorporating cellular capabilities into blood glucose monitoring systems is helping to remove the barriers for connected health engagement, bolstering the quality of provider-to-patient interactions and helping to reduce overall care costs. Bluetooth devices have offered connectivity for many years but the technology wasn’t user-friendly enough for the average person to use it consistently, which left gaps in the data a clinician had to review. Their data wasn’t reliable. Now, cellular technology provides the healthcare provider a complete, accurate, reliable picture of a person’s blood glucose results in real-time.

From a cost management perspective, people living with uncontrolled diabetes may significantly increase healthcare costs. The American Diabetes Association released research in March 2018 estimating the total costs of diagnosed diabetes have risen to $327 billion in 2017 from $245 billion in 2012. Remote patient monitoring can help keep costs down by enabling clinicians to review data from patients in real-time between visits, have more meaningful interactions with patients and provide interventions when necessary, potentially reducing complications associated with diabetes. Overall, this often cuts out unnecessary doctor’s office visits and costly hospitalizations. Not only does this save the patient from co-pay fees, it also saves valuable time for clinicians. New incentives have been introduced to promote implementation of RPM programs, such as this year’s Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services CPT 99091 reimbursement code. According to the Nixon Law Group, LLC, CMS also indicated that reimbursement under CPT code 99091 is an interim measure until additional codes for a variety of specific types of RPM are approved, hopefully in 2019. This makes providers and healthcare organizations optimistic that commercial payers will soon follow suit.

For patients, most cellular diabetes management solutions are out-of-the-box ready. Seeing their results immediately can give patients peace of mind if they see improvements or know that their doctor is actively monitoring their status. In turn, they are encouraged to test more consistently, allowing providers to better manage their diabetic population.

Clinicians who participated in a study conducted by Flexcare Health Solutions monitored real-time data for 60 patients for three months leveraging cellular technology between scheduled visits and found that 70% of patients required intervention between visits. 26% of patients were identified at risk and received immediate intervention due to harmful out-of-range results. Another study by Smart Meter and National and Kapodistrian University of Athens remotely monitored real-time data for 66 patients with diabetes for three months leveraging a cellular diabetes management technology. More than 80% of patients required intervention between visits reminding them to keep up with their glucose testing or to advise them that the range of their measurements was too high or too low. 90% of their patients had a 30% reduction of their average blood glucose levels by the end of the study.

Howard University is currently conducting a 90-day study with 50 patients measuring the impact cellular technology can have on reducing HbA1c. Interim results have already shown 21 patients reducing their HbA1c results by an average of 1.1 points. That’s significant with each HbA1c point reduction reducing the risk of eye, kidney and nerve disease by 40%. Insurance carriers can see cost reductions per HbA1c point of $7000 to $20,000 depending on the type of diabetes and its complications according to United Health Group 2010.

Cellular technology has the opportunity to change the face of diabetes management for those challenged with the disease and their healthcare providers. The ability to share data at the time of testing without technology barriers and at an affordable price will be key.

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