The reality of diabetes care in the US

People with diabetes (PWDs) have medical expenditures 2.3 times higher than those without diabetes.

Nearly 30 million people in the US have diabetes, and over 1.4 million new PWDs are diagnosed each year. Treating diabetes is no straightforward task – it requires people to manage their own metabolic rate, which is a 24/7/365 job. PWDs do best when they get help from their community, friends, family, and care team. Sometimes, it can “take a village” to achieve and maintain an ideal blood glucose level for each person.

Centered within the “village” are the PWDs, monitoring their blood glucose and following the guidelines of trained medical professionals. These professionals must not only understand the disease, but also the person and their individual lifestyles in order to prescribe the right treatment and refer these same people to other healthcare professionals: dietitians, diabetes educators, ophthalmologists, social workers, and podiatrists. Unfortunately, village life is far from ideal.

A lack of communication can be both costly, if not fatal. Diabetes is a chronic disease, which if left untreated for an extended period of time, can increase glucose (sugar) levels that can eventually lead to complications such as cardiovascular disease, nerve damage, and kidney disease. The cost of these complications have taken a toll on the US economy. Of the $176 billion that the US spends each year to treat diabetes, $107 billion (61%) is spent on medication and inpatient care to treat these diabetes-associated complications. This means that each of the 5,564 hospitals in the US spends an average of $19 million each year to treat complications!

The village is smaller than we think. There is a shortage of board-certified endocrinologists in the US. As of 2011, there were only 5,811 trained endocrinologists. However, about 2,000 work at academic institutions and see only a few patients regularly. Additionally, the pharmaceutical industry, Federal Drug Administration (FDA), and National Institute of Health (NIH) employ thousands of endocrinologists for research, leaving roughly 1,000 endocrinologists to cover almost 6,000 hospitals and treat millions of PWDs. This strained ratio between PWDs and providers may be associated with lower adherence to long-term medical treatment, and why less than 50% of PWDs achieve recommended glycemic goals.

Glooko makes the village bigger. Glooko amplifies existing resources for PWDs. Our experience has shown that remote patient monitoring can improve adherence to long-term therapy, improve clinical outcomes, and reduce costs. When PWDs use Glooko they receive personalized insights and can understand how their blood glucose is influenced by such factors as time, exercise, and specific foods and medications. This same data also allows providers and coaches to monitor their patients from afar and address the specific needs of each individual patient.

Digital health can make the reality of diabetes care better, by empowering patients, scaling personalized support and optimizing care interaction.