A promising trend

A promising trend

It’s no secret that Diabetic Investor believes the most effective method to improve patient outcomes isn’t whiz technology or even better drugs, the key to improving patient outcomes is patient education. This does not mean technology or better drugs are not important, rather they are only important IF the patient understands how to use all this technology and is actually taking the drugs. The simple truth is, and there numerous studies that back this up, educated patients are more compliant with their medications and utilize diabetes technology more effectively. The bottom line, educated patients achieve better outcomes because they understand why they are doing what they are doing.

The main issue with patient education has never been IF education works, the main issue with education has always been how to cost effectively deliver patient education. Diabetic Investor has long maintained that patient education and profits are not mutually exclusive, that they can co-exist and even thrive together. Frankly with the vast number of patients combined with the diabetes epidemic Diabetic Investor does not believe education can be delivered to these patients without a profit motive. The fact is education cost money.

That’s why Diabetic Investor has been particularly gratified by several recent announcements. Here’s a sample of what we’re talking about:

According to press release issued by Jewel-Osco; “At a time when nearly 26 million Americans have diabetes and an estimated 79 million have pre-diabetes(1), JEWEL-OSCO, part of the nationwide SUPERVALU® INC. (NYSE: SVU) family of grocery stores, is announcing its “Eating Healthy with my Diabetes™” in-store tours for 2011. The free educational tours are designed to help customers learn to choose better-for-you foods and eat healthfully, while incorporating foods they love into their meal plans.

Specially-trained pharmacists and registered dietitians guide the FREE in-store tours, covering topics such as reading Nutrition Facts labels and identifying healthier food options such as high fiber grains and choices lower in saturated-fat, which are easily identified by nutrition iQ®, JEWEL-OSCO’s color-coded in-store nutritional navigation system. Tour content is geared for those who have diabetes and also extends to friends, family members and others who may be able to take action now to delay or stop their own diagnosis of diabetes.”

Also today we learned that Kroger is the latest retailer to join the Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance as a partner. The supermarket conglomerate will implement the DPCA’s Diabetes Control Program, which is designed to help patients gain better control of their condition, at select store pharmacies. Earlier this week Albertson’s, another grocery chain, also joined the Alliance.

The Alliance was put together by UnitedHealth Group which according to their web site;

“The Diabetes Prevention and Control Alliance is anchored by two innovative programs including the Diabetes Prevention Program, which is designed to help people at risk for diabetes prevent the disease through healthy eating, increased activity, and other lifestyle changes, and the Diabetes Control Program, which will help people with diabetes better control their condition through education and support from trained pharmacists. UnitedHealth Group covers these services at no charge to plan participants enrolled in employer-provided health insurance plans, marking the first time in the country that a health plan will pay for evidence-based diabetes prevention and control programs.

Both programs have been tested through controlled trials or pilot projects with the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Y, Indiana University, clinical centers, employers and retail pharmacies. There is substantial evidence that supports early and aggressive intervention to help people avoid the health and financial toll of diabetes.”

UnitedHealth isn’t the only company embracing diabetes education as pharmacy retailers CVS, Rite-Aid and Walgreens, a member of the Alliance, are also aggressively promoting patient education. While it would be nice to believe that all these companies are embracing patient education to improve their customer’s health, it would also be naïve. The reality is helping their customers more effectively manage their diabetes is very good business. Consider these facts, customers with diabetes spend approximately $4,500 per year at the pharmacy, they visit their pharmacy more frequently than patients who do not have diabetes and they buy products that carry higher margins.

The same is true for insurance companies like UnitedHealth, as studies have shown that employers save on average $1,000 per year in healthcare costs for every 1% drop in HbA1c. They also know that employees who more effectively manage their diabetes are more productive as they are not missing work due to their diabetes.

The bottom line here is diabetes education and making money go hand in hand. Which is why Diabetic Investor continues to be astonished that diabetes drug and device companies have not been more aggressive in their efforts promoting diabetes education. Think of what it would mean to a glucose monitoring company if they could increase average testing frequency by just one test per day. Or what it would mean to a drug company if patients actually took their drugs as prescribed and weren’t skipping doses. At a time when everyone else is recognizing that diabetes education is not just good for the patient but also very good for business that these companies whose livelihood depends on the diabetes patient would be jumping on the education bandwagon.

It’s not too late and there’s still plenty of room on the bandwagon. Come and join the party.