Getting employees to make an appointment for their annual physical can be challenging but what about when they’re trying to manage a chronic health condition like diabetes? According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1 in 10 Americans have diabetes and 1 in 3 are considered prediabetic.
To help manage their diabetes, your employees must maintain a healthy diet, keep track of their glucose levels, manage stress and take any needed medication. Failing to do so can result in additional health complications, absenteeism from work and even hospitalization. So how can employers encourage their teams to take charge of managing diabetes? Companies like Marathon Health have focused on creating more personalized diabetes care management programs to give employers and employees the tools and resources needed.
Diabetes Care and Prevention Begins with Understanding Past Barriers
The first step is for the employee healthcare team to understand the patient’s background and figure out where the patient is in their journey. They may have been diagnosed with diabetes several years ago or just recently found out they’re diabetic.
“A lot of patients I see have been disappointed by the healthcare they’ve received before,” says Rosa De La Torre, Marathon Health’s Vice President of Clinical Affairs and a Family Nurse Practitioner. “A previous provider might have told them they needed to lose 30 pounds before they come in for their next appointment but gave them no direction about how to do so. They may also lack education on the best way to manage their diabetes or have misconceptions about insulin or medications to treat their condition. Once I’m able to assess the situation, I’ll have a better idea of how to help patients.”
Personalized Diabetes Care Management Programs Provide Ongoing Support
Some employees will also be more proactive about managing their diabetes than others. Having a care team design a personalized program gives each patient a stronger likelihood they’ll succeed.
“Whether the employee is starting our Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) or our Diabetes Self-Management Education and Support Program (DSMES), I like to begin with a basic assessment and make sure I have the appropriate information needed to start to form their care plan,” says Ryan Efaw, a Registered Nurse and Health Coach at Marathon Health. “I then discuss with them what their goals are and identify areas where they can make improvements and decide on a starting point. We have regular appointments during the first three months and then do another check-in or assessment to see where we’re at and continue to follow up over the first year to make sure they have the support they need.”
Patients who are enrolled in the DSMES program receive pre- and post-program biometric screenings including A1C screening, one-on-one with their health coach, and a binder with information to help participants fully engage with the program. They will also be able to participate in additional group support sessions and health coaching opportunities.
The diabetes program focuses on self-care behaviors including healthy eating, taking medications, monitoring, problem solving, being active, reducing risks and healthy coping.
Identifying Roadblocks with Diabetes Care
Once an employee has started managing their diabetes, it’s not uncommon for them to encounter challenges that make sticking to their care program more difficult, and setbacks are common.
To help counter this, Efaw says he looks for solutions to help the employee overcome obstacles. “Sometimes a patient may start experiencing joint issues that impact their exercise regimen, so I have to find ways to help them work around that. I also have employees who travel a lot for business and because of this, may not have a primary care provider. So, I set them up with our Connected Care Program which offers remote monitoring through an app and is part of our Anywhere Virtual Care program. It provides them with the care and support they need wherever they are.”
De La Torre also says that cost can also be a hindrance for some employees who need ongoing diabetes care management. She says she makes sure to let employees know who are enrolled in the Marathon Health DPP, DSMES and Connected Care programs that it’s not going to cost them anything to see their health coaches.
Change is Possible
While it takes discipline, employees who make managing their diabetes a priority, can experience dramatic results. Efaw says that he coached one employee who had been diabetic for 15 years and started the DSMES program with an A1C of 10% and said it had never been less than 8.5%.
At the end of the 3-month program, the employee had an A1C of 6.5% and was shocked. Efaw said the employee had told him the program had changed his life, and he’s now looking forward to seeing his grandchildren grow up and graduate from high school, which he didn’t think he’d be able to do before.
Melia Adams, another Marathon Health patient, benefited from the diabetes care program through her employer Escambia County School District’s Health and Wellness Center. She says that diabetes was affecting her vision and she experienced low energy every day. Her care team and health coaches helped her adopt a healthier lifestyle. “I’ve lost 34 pounds, my A1c has decreased and I’m no longer insulin-dependent. I’m able to move around better and am not as tired. The health improvement has changed my life,” Adams says.
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