How machine distributors can help with making certain a seamless journey for folks with kind 2 diabetes

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Diabetes management has come a very long way since the first blood glucose meters came onto the market in the 1980s. Before this revolutionary technology, most patients had their glucose checked and their medications adjusted four times a year during visits to the clinician’s office. During the long months in between, patients were largely left guessing as to how to approach many aspects of their diabetes treatment and management plans.

In the last 40 years, advances by device and drug manufacturers have transformed how we monitor and manage diabetes. Patients can now monitor glucose at five-minute intervals and adopt algorithm-enabled devices to automatically deliver insulin, add up carbs and track a variety of related health metrics in real-time.

Despite these technologies being much more sophisticated, they still create different challenges that need to be overcome. We are now asking patients to become data scientists by analyzing and reacting to graphs and numbers throughout the day. At the same time, patients are responsible for navigating their insurance benefits and managing input from all of the stakeholders seeking to inform and influence how the patient self-manages their disease.

Unfortunately, patients do not always have the education and support required for them to succeed in using their devices, interpreting the plethora of numbers generated, and integrating key information into their diabetes journey.

There is a critical and untapped opportunity to ensure that patients have a clear and direct pathway to better self-management by leveraging one of the most high-touch relationships for a person with diabetes: their connection with their device and supply distributors.

Distributors typically interact with patients at least once a month during the process of delivering diabetes supplies, creating an organic opportunity to touch base with those who may need extra support as they manage their own health.

Distributors can and should expand to fill gaps in device education and actively support the work of providers and health plans. This innovative approach has real promise for ensuring that the patient journey is seamless and enabling people with type 2 diabetes to live healthier lives.

The tangled challenges of diabetes management in the current care environment

People with diabetes often interact with multiple care providers, including a primary care physician, endocrinologist, dietician and diabetes educator. Every stakeholder has a role to play. However, it can be difficult to coordinate care, particularly around advancement of patient self-management skills. This can lead to less-than-optimal patient outcomes and satisfaction.

Without truly coordinating care, patients may receive conflicting information or simply be overwhelmed by feedback and insights from the providers, payers, device manufacturers, pharmacists, and other members of the care team.

For example, some patients may be overwhelmed by the idea of setting up and using a new device. They might just put the newly delivered box in a closet and shut the door. If no one follows up with onboarding, the expensive device may simply stay unused.

Patients deserve options for gaining mastery over their diabetes. Education around new supplies and devices should come from a trusted source that knows when new devices have been prescribed and how patients can best learn how to utilize diabetes technology and management tools.

Leveraging distributors to deliver device education in the right place at the right time 

Distributors might not be top of mind when considering another proactive partner for diabetes management, but there are several clear reasons they should become more involved in onboarding, education, and support.

For one thing, there is a worrying shortage of clinicians who deliver diabetes care. Even before the Covid-19 pandemic that led to healthcare worker burnout, the nation was facing a shortfall of 2,700 diabetes specialists by 2025 and 48,000 primary care physicians by 2034.

It will be essential to support the remaining workforce in every way possible. Supply and device distributors have the knowledge, resources, and bandwidth to augment the work of overburdened clinicians.

Distributors typically interact with patients between 10 and 15 times a year, starting from the first moment of diagnosis. Each of these touchpoints is an opportunity to provide real-time device training, offer education about self-management techniques and the importance of adherence to therapy, and relay critical information back to healthcare providers.

Enlisting the help of a trusted, established entity to unite the care continuum and proactively close gaps in care for patients will be crucial, especially as value-based care arrangements continue to expand and accountability for holistic, coordinated care increases.

A call for more involvement from the distributor community

Distributors have a promising and exciting opportunity to step forward into a new role in diabetes care. These companies sit at the crossroads of the clinical, payor, and consumer environments, perfectly positioned to build stronger connections between all three groups and support individuals as they navigate the complex healthcare system.

A number of distributors are already taking advantage of this opportunity by bringing accredited clinicians on staff to inform their next steps and developing patient-friendly educational programs to better balance the use of digital tools with the human aspect of the diabetes journey.

The key to making these efforts as effective as possible is to close the feedback loop between primary care providers, payers, pharmacies, device manufacturers, and specialists. Doing so will require ongoing investment in data interoperability and care coordination workflows. While this isn’t easy, information exchange is worth the effort and essential for creating better patient experiences and outcomes.

Enhanced participation from supply and device distributors can go a long way toward supporting patients using diabetes technologies and other complex therapies and in assuring long-term adherence.

By expanding the education and support team to include supply and device distributors, patients will be able to better access the tools and knowledge they need to effectively manage their health.

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