The alarming rise of prediabetes (Part 2)

Clare Lanaux

In part one of this series, we discussed the prevalence of prediabetes in the United States and why, even with many warnings from the medical community, rates of the disease continue to rise.

In 2012, the total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes, including lost productivity, totaled at $245 billion and by 2020, the total cost of diabetes is estimated to reach $500 billion dollars. With diabetes currently accounting for 7% of total US healthcare dollars spent, it’s essential that we find a way to keep these numbers from continuing to grow.

As outlined in the first article, as two of the main risk factors of diabetes rise — obesity and old age — the rate of diabetes will also grow. While lifestyle programs like the CDC’s NDPP are extremely effective and can reduce risk of diabetes by 58%, the system is unable to scale to the level needed to reach most diabetic patients.

Mobile technology has the potential to dramatically improve engagement and effectiveness, taking lifestyle programs to a great number of people, which will aid in reversing the trajectory of diabetes.

 

A step-by-step approach for payers :

Once a patient has pre-diabetes, the pathophysiological process that will lead to diabetes has begun. But there are steps that can be taken to prevent the onset of the disease.

      1. Screening: Screening those who are at high-risk for pre-diabetes is cost-effective and judicious. The screening costs less than $200 per patient and those who are then diagnosed with prediabetes can be aggressively treated with lifestyle intervention programs. Such non-invasive therapies can result in gained savings of more than $8000.
      2. Scalability: As stated in the previous article, only 6.8% of prediabetic patients are currently receiving any type of treatment with most enrolled in a lifestyle change program. Lifestyle programs are extremely effective but they are currently not scalable. In order to make these programs scale and therefore effective across populations, a technological element must be introduced that can increase the caseload of human coaches without an added burden. With coaches backed by smart A.I., lifestyle programs could reach across populations, reducing patients’ risk of diabetes in a monumental way.
      3. Individualized treatment: The most effective treatment for prediabetics is lifestyle change programs like the CDC’s NDPP, which can reduce risk of diabetes by up to 58%. In order to replicate the success of the NDPP in a virtualized format, the personalized design must be kept intact. There are many factors — health coverage, social or religious obligations, family structure, careers, etc. — that can affect a patient’s life and, therefore, treatment. Human coaches can connect with each patient and learn about their individual needs and preferences. Then, working with the patient, they can create an individualized program that will fit their lifestyle.

We are currently following the right path to reverse the course of diabetes but we have a much farther way to go. Utilizing technology, we can scale lifestyle programs that can help to curb the trajectory of diabetes, immensely reducing costs and improving numerous lives.