About 422 million people worldwide have diabetes, and most of the sufferers have type 2 diabetes, or adult-onset diabetes. Type 2 diabetes is treatable, but even more important, it’s preventable. Most people who are diagnosed with type 2 diabetes are obese or overweight, and their eating habits could use some adjustment.
Getting type 2 diabetes under control means eating more vegetables and fewer carbs, particularly sweets. In addition, adding more movement to daily life helps even out blood sugar levels and lower A1C, a key measure of average blood sugar levels for the past two to three months.
For insurance companies, this is a costly population. With complications including heart and blood vessel disease, nerve damage, kidney damage, impacts to eyesight, hearing impairment, slower healing, and more, not to mention treatment of the disease itself, the dollars to help these individuals stay healthy add up quickly. Financially, the global cost of diabetes is now 825 billion dollars per year, according to the largest ever study of diabetes levels across the world.
But all of this can be avoided or reduced by making lifestyle changes, particularly with respect to diet and exercise.
What Can Insurers Do?
Education and prevention are key factors when trying to prevent type 2 diabetes. Some insurance plans are putting huge amounts of resources towards prevention, as increased awareness within this population has been shown to reduce costly symptoms and complications. Educating your members about what to look for and what changes to make in their everyday lives can make a big impact to your bottom line. Here are some recommended guidelines that Digital Health Engagement Platforms (DHEP) or simple preventive campaigns could help your insured members with:
- Reducing carbohydrate intake. DHEPs can help your members stay on track of their nutrition. AI-based or digital coaching can be useful tools to help them incorporate healthy eating habits, especially when it comes to limiting refined sugars and carbohydrates.
- Moving more. Experts recommend getting 10,000 steps a day. While that may seem daunting, minor changes can add up quickly. Digital health apps encourage your members to stay active through gamification and social networking. The best platforms also feature in-app challenges to keep users on track and motivated.
- Boosting their heart rate. Once users become accustomed to moving more, it’s time to ramp up the heart rate. Digital health has been proven to help users stay active for longer. This will gradually improve cardiovascular health and burn more calories, thereby helping users keep their blood sugar lower and more even over time.
Another crucial point is feet health. Insurers should support yearly screenings for diabetes sufferers in order to get their feet, and especially toes, checked and to educate them on feet health. Nerve damage to the legs, feet and toes is a common complication of type 2 diabetes. Along with poor blood circulation, another complication, this nerve damage can lead to ulcers and sores on the feet. If these go unnoticed or untreated, people suffering from diabetes may be at risk of irreversible damage. They should be aware of any abnormalities and call their doctor if they see anything unusual.
Implementing a Digital Health Engagement Platform is a way to help your members stay healthy, whether they are existing diabetes sufferers or not. Also, a simple series of emails or phone calls to share the above tips with your members who have type 2 diabetes can help you increase customer engagement, reduce costs, and most of all, fulfill the ultimate goal of keeping your members healthy.
Insurers should additionally consider implementing their own smart triage methodology in order to determine which members could be at risk of developing type 2 diabetes and redirecting them to the appropriate preventive care when needed. DHEPs may be of help to implement this methodology.
As part of World Diabetes Day, dacadoo has released a report on the stakeholder economy and how insurers now, more than ever, need to attach a health and wellbeing proposition to their product offering. Download our report here.