Earlier Screening Will Improve Diabetes Detection. Here’s What Needs to Come Next
Sep 8, 2022 8:00:00 AM
A year ago, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force changed its guidance as to when doctors should start screening for diabetes. The group, an independent volunteer panel of national experts in disease prevention and evidence-based medicine, recommended doctors screen overweight or obese adults who are asymptomatic and not pregnant starting at 35 years, five years earlier than previously recommended.
The new guidelines were heralded as an important move toward identifying more people who don’t know they have prediabetes or diabetes – up to half of at-risk patients, according to the analysis. USPSTF hopes lowering the age of screening will improve accuracy.
However, a diagnosis is only the first step toward a solution. Now healthcare professionals and insurance providers must find ways to empower patients to change their lifestyle and adopt healthier habits that reduce risk.
Here are three important support tools to include in your diabetes prevention toolkit:
- Information – Many of your members may not know anything about prediabetes or diabetes. That’s especially true of younger members, since Type 2 diabetes has traditionally been considered an older person’s disease. (No longer. Diabetes is now growing fastest among people 20 and under.)
Health insurance providers have the important role of encouraging early diabetes screening and then educating their at-risk members about how to prevent the disease. Helpful information must include messaging such as:
- Prediabetes is an early warning system that something needs to change.
- Prediabetes is reversible with lifestyle change.
- Excess weight, inactivity and poor diet are common risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
- Most people who ignore a prediabetes diagnosis will develop diabetes.
- Diabetes impacts the way the blood vessels behave, and can contribute to heart attacks, strokes, blindness, kidney disease and infection-related amputations.
Of course, the information you provide doesn’t all have to be dour and serious. Health plans can also offer proactive resources like healthy recipes, exercise tips and self-care recommendations. When your members take better care of themselves, they will have more energy and self-confidence to make the necessary lifestyle changes.
- Coaching – Once your members know their diagnosis and have a chance to digest the information you provide, they will need people on their team to coach them through the necessary adjustments. Physicians can get the ball rolling by offering medically-proven interventions and scheduling follow-up appointments. But change is difficult, and your members will need more immediate, day-to-day coaching to set goals and pursue them in smart, measured ways to achieve success.
A CDC-recognized diabetes prevention program can provide this type of relationship-based health coaching best. DPPs offer a structured, comprehensive and evidence-based plan for reducing diabetes through three foundational components: weight loss, diet and activity. Licensed or certified nutritionists, exercise and wellness coaches provide information and support. Many programs also include peer support groups as an additional layer of encouragement.
DPPs come in many forms, including in-person programs. However, many people find mobile-based programs can offer the same support and engagement with more convenience and flexibility. In the end, the best DPP will be the one your members follow regularly.
Yes Health has discovered that customizing coaching based on each member’s preferences – how the member likes to be coached, the types of food and activities the member enjoys, etc. – leads to higher engagement and completion rates. Our DPP has an exceptional 87% completion rate, largely due to the flexibility of our approach.
- Accountability – Studies show that people have greater success at achieving goals when they have someone checking in and cheering them on. That’s why accountability is so important, especially as your members are making difficult changes to long-held lifestyle habits. An accountability partner can be a friend or family member, but even better is an impartial person tasked specifically with correcting, reminding and encouraging.
DPP programs like the one offered by Yes Health offer a variety of accountability tools. For instance, Yes Health members can post photos of their meals and exercise routines and receive quick feedback and advice. They can also send direct messages to coaches when they grow discouraged, have a setback or just need a reminder that “You can do it!” Yes Health’s experienced health coaches know just how to balance challenge and praise – with no judgment – to keep members engaged and motivated.
How to Choose
Choosing the right DPP program to meet your growing member needs requires a bit of homework. You’ll want to look for programs that offer all three support tools outlined here (information, coaching and accountability). Next, check the program credentials: Is the program CDC-recommended and Medicare/Medicaid approved? Are their methods based on science or just vague wellness paradigms?
Next, look at how customizable the program is. Perhaps you have DPP programs in place that suffer from low enrollment or low completion. Typically, that’s because the programs are too rigid and not personalized to the foods, activities and accountability preferences of the individual. The program you use should be flexible enough to adapt to various member needs.
Also, think about access. Can your members access the DPP services anytime and anywhere they need them? Or are they limited to weekly weigh-ins and meetings? Having services that work on your members’ terms will increase the likelihood of success.
Finally, see it for yourself. When you watch the program in action, either in person or online, you will gain a solid understanding of what your members will experience.
Diabetes rates are rising, but that doesn’t have to be the case for your members. Earlier screening will identify more people who are at-risk but still able to turn around their health. They just need some support tools to help them do it.
Want to learn how Yes Health has enabled thousands of people to reduce their disease risk, as well as feel healthier overall? Download our information sheet, “Yes Health for Health Plans.” Then click here to schedule your free demo.