5 ways employers can make diabetes education programs more inclusive

Employees struggling with diabetes often have to make difficult decisions when it comes to their medications. Often, it can be difficult to manage blood sugar daily and feel healthy enough to function at work. Read the following blog post from Employee Benefit News for five ways employers can make diabetes education programs more inclusive.


Diabetes doesn’t quit. Employees struggling with the disease often have to make difficult decisions about their medications. It can be hard to keep control of blood sugar every day and feel healthy enough to function well at work.

Many workers don’t tell their employer they have diabetes. Some 81% of benefits decision-makers believe employees with diabetes at their companies keep it a secret.

Giving voice to an issue is the first step toward solving it. Diabetes in the workplace is in need of attention: rates are rising in the U.S., as are the associated costs — unplanned missed workdays, reduced productivity and the stress associated with uncontrolled diabetes add up to billions of dollars per year.

To help employers find solutions, Roche Diabetes Care commissioned a survey of more than 200 benefits decision-makers at self-funded companies to learn their perceptions of the human and financial burden of diabetes. What’s clear is that addressing the myriad of concerns related to this condition is a top priority for benefits decision-makers; indeed, 70% say it keeps them awake at night.

Benefits decision-makers say the impact of diabetes on their companies is significant:

  • More than one in four report diabetes results in increased costs to replace workers (28%), increased administrative and other indirect costs of managing absenteeism (29%);
  • One in three believe diabetes results in indirect costs resulting from fatigue and understaffing as well as reduced productivity;
  • One in four feel diabetes is responsible for poor morale among employees who must perform work to cover absent co-workers.

The majority (87%) agree it is vital that employers offer continual support to employees with diabetes. Listening, education and help simplifying everyday diabetes management emerge as ways employers can improve the health of their employees with diabetes and the company bottom lines. The following are five approaches to consider.

Cultivate a collaborative, supportive environment to encourage employees with diabetes to feel comfortable and at ease about sharing concerns.

Four in five (81%) benefits decision-makers surveyed say they believe employees keep their condition a secret. Fear of discrimination is one reason those with diabetes keep quiet along with the general sense that their colleagues and superiors just don’t know or understand what it’s like to live with the condition.

Secrets are also stressful. Employers can address this by including diabetes more frequently in workplace wellness education programs and discussions, and creating safe forums for employees with diabetes to share concerns and express their needs. Listening and making employees with diabetes part of a two-way dialogue demonstrate the company values not only their opinions but also their important contributions to the company community.

Designate private places at the office where employees with diabetes can test their blood sugar during the workday.

Some 90% of benefits decision-makers surveyed think their employees would value company access and time to monitor blood sugar or take injections.

Simplify daily diabetes management so employees have what they need to be in control of their blood sugar levels at home and at work.

People with diabetes have different concerns and different needs at different times. A company-sponsored program to simplify the daily decision-making and management of diabetes needs to be personalized, easily accessible and help the user keep track of their blood sugar levels automatically. Benefits decision-makers believe employers supported in this way would be:

  • Less distracted and less stressed at work (37%);
  • More productive (45%) and have better morale;
  • Take fewer sick days (39%);
  • Feel their employer cared about them (41%).

We have created a program that offers the elements that enable personalized accessible support. Participants say they feel more positively engaged in their daily management and more confident at work.

Demonstrate the value of supported employees with diabetes by measuring impact productivity and absenteeism.

Most of those surveyed say they believe company-supported programs that help employees with diabetes simplify daily management of the condition would have myriad benefits:

  • 89% say it would lead to a higher quality of life and reduced sick time and related expenses;
  • More than four in five say a company-supported program would result in more company loyalty and less turnover (83%) and contribute to increased productivity (84%);
  • 90% believe employees with diabetes would feel more empowered at work if they participated in a company-supported program that helped them keep their blood sugar levels in control.

Consider conducting brief surveys of employees about their perceptions of diabetes. These can be done before or after education or awareness efforts are in place. For companies with support programs in place, surveys can be conducted among participants. Qualitative and quantitative data help demonstrate the value of these investments. Just asking the questions among employees show the company cares.

Show your successes; don’t just tell.

Show the value of educating about diabetes and supporting your employees with the condition. There are a number of ways to accomplish this. Collect and tell their stories. Create testimonials in articles for internal newsletters and videos that can be shown on monitors around the office. Stories are powerful ways to educate, build empathy and understanding, and perhaps most importantly, get the secret of diabetes out in the open.

SOURCE: Berman, A. (30 September 2019) "5 ways employers can make diabetes education programs more inclusive" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitnews.com/list/how-to-make-diabetes-education-programs-more-inclusive


To check or not to check: Managing blood sugar in diabetic employees

There's been a growing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes in the U.S. over the last 20 years. This chronic condition significantly impacts employees, their family members and even employers clinically and financially. Read this blog post to learn more.


Over the last 20 years, there’s been a growing prevalence in the U.S. of Type 2 diabetes, a chronic condition that significantly impacts employers, their employees and family members clinically, financially and through quality of life. With that comes an increase in the use of insulin for people with Type 2 diabetes to better control blood sugar to reduce long-term complications, which includes eye, kidney and cardiac disease, as well as neuropathic complications.

Most of these patients manage their condition with oral medicines versus insulin, and it’s estimated that 75% of patients with Type 2 diabetes regularly test their blood sugar, even though doing so may not be needed. Blood sugar testing is an important tool in managing diabetes as it can help a patient be more aware of their disease and potentially control it better. But it also can be painful, inconvenient and costly.

Blood sugar testing can be an important tool in managing diabetes, and there are two types of tests. The first is a test conducted at home by the patient that shows the blood sugar at a specific point in time. The second type is called HA1c (a measure of long-term blood sugar control) that shows the average blood sugar over the last two to three months. The value of at-home testing is now thought to be questionable.

In 2012, the Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute began a study to evaluate the value of daily blood sugar testing for people with Type 2 diabetes not taking insulin. The endpoint for the study was whether there was a difference in HA1c levels for those who did daily testing and those that did not. The conclusion of the study found that there were no significant differences between those two populations.

In response to these findings, the institute developed an initiative called Rethink the Strip that involves stakeholders including primary care practices, healthcare providers, patients, health plans, coalitions and employers. Given the cost for test strips and monitors for patients with Type 2 diabetes who test their blood sugar daily, it’s important to adopt an evidence-based patient-centered approach around the need for and frequency of self-monitoring of blood glucose.

As employees and employers cope with the costs associated with blood sugar testing, there are several strategies that should be considered to better manage this issue. They include:

1. Support shared decision-making. Like all interventions within healthcare, it’s important to weigh both the benefits and the risks of daily blood sugar testing in a thoughtful manner between the patient and their provider.

2. Managed benefit design. Employers should pay for daily blood sugar test strips in cases where it brings value (e.g., Type 1 and Type 2 patients who are taking insulin as well as patients that are either newly diagnosed or are going through a transition period, for example, post hospitalization or beginning a new medication regimen).

3. Involve vendors. To ensure alignment in all messaging to plan members, ask health systems and/or health plans and third-party vendors to align their communication, measurement and provider feedback strategies on when it’s appropriate for daily blood sugar testing.

These strategies can help employees with diabetes understand how their daily activities (nutrition, exercise and stress) and medications impact their condition. This benefits the employee in reaching treatment goals and feeling their best, while also helping employers and employees reduce the need for unnecessary and costly test strips.

SOURCE: Berger, J. (14 March 2019) "To check or not to check: Managing blood sugar in diabetic employees" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/managing-blood-sugar-in-diabetic-employees?brief=00000152-146e-d1cc-a5fa-7cff8fee0000


New resource offers guidance on digital tools for diabetes management

The market for digital diabetes management tools is continuing to mature. Read this blog post for the Northeast Business Group on Health’s updated guide on diabetes management tools.


The Northeast Business Group on Health has updated its “Digital Tools and Solutions for Diabetes: An Employer’s Guide,” to include both enhanced and new solutions—and promising future innovations—to help employers help their workers better manage their diabetes, lower costs and ultimately save more lives.

“Employers are well aware of the costs associated with diabetes in their employee and dependent populations—they continue to indicate this is a top concern and are increasingly aware of the links between diabetes and other chronic and debilitating health conditions, including cardiovascular disease,” says Candice Sherman, CEO of NEBGH.

The market for digital diabetes prevention and management solutions continues to mature since the group published its first guide in 2016, Sherman says. The updated guide provides a detailed checklist of the features and functionalities of the digital tools available now to manage diabetes, as well as information on several unique and innovative digital diabetes solutions that are being targeted to employers but were not part of NEBGH’s research, including Proteus Discover, BlueLoop and do-it-yourself programs.

“Proteus Discover is comprised of ingestible sensors, a small wearable sensor patch, an application on a mobile device and a provider portal,” the guide cites the provider. “Once activated, Proteus Discover unlocks never-before-seen insight into patient health patterns and medication treatment effectiveness, leading to more informed healthcare decisions for everyone involved.”

“BlueLoop is the one and only tool that allows kids and their caregivers to log and share diabetes information—both online and with the app—in real time, via instant e-mail and text message, giving peace of mind to parents,more class time for students and fewer phone calls and paper logs for school nurses,” the provider tells NEBGH. “Online, parents can share real-time BG logs with their clinicians, who can see logs (in the format they prefer), current dosages and reports, all in one place.”

The guide also hints at promising future innovations:

“Technology is constantly evolving: by connecting sensors, wearables and apps, it is increasingly possible to pool and leverage data in innovative ways to provide timely interventions so that people with diabetes can be truly independent and effectively self-manage their care,” the authors write.

The guide lists a hypothetical scenario: A person with diabetes enters a restaurant where a GPS sensor identifies the location, reviews the menu and proposes the best choices based on caloric and carbohydrate content. The technology also proposes and delivers a rapidly acting insulin bolus dose based on the person’s exercise level that day and prior experiences when eating similar meals.

Also included are key questions for employers considering implementing digital diabetes tools or solutions, including:

  • What does the company want to achieve with a digital tool?
  • How much is the company willing to pay?
  • How will success be measured?
  • How will digital solutions and tools be marketed to employees and their families?
  • What privacy issues need to be addressed when tools or solutions are implemented?

“Digital health tools hold the promise of improved health outcomes and reduced health care expenses through improved engagement, better collaboration and sustained behavior change,” says Mark Cunningham-Hill, NEBGH’s medical director. “However, digital diabetes solutions are not a panacea. Employers will need to address several obstacles such as the difficulty of recruitment and enrollment, lack of sustained employee engagement and the cost of deployment of digital solutions. This can be accomplished through careful planning and learning from other employers that have successfully implemented these tools.”

SOURCE: Kuehner-Hebert, K. (4 December 2018) "New resource offers guidance on digital tools for diabetes management" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/12/04/new-resource-digital-tools-for-diabetes-management/


Red-meat eaters increase risk of diabetes with more portions

Originally posted by Nicole Ostraw on http://ebn.benefitnews.com

(Bloomberg) -- Eating more red meat over time raises the risk of getting Type 2 diabetes, while cutting back reduces the danger, research shows.

Consuming an additional half-serving a day of red meat during a four-year period increased a person’s chance of developing diabetes by 48% in the subsequent four years, according to a study this month in JAMA Internal Medicine. Reducing red meat consumption lowered diabetes risk long term, says lead study author An Pan.

The study is the first to look at changes in red meat consumption over time and how that affects diabetes risk, Pan says. The results confirm previous research that had linked red meat intake to diabetes risk and suggests that limiting the amount of beef, pork and lamb people eat is beneficial, he says.

“If possible, try to reduce red meat and replace with other healthy choices like beans and legumes, nuts, fish, poultry, whole grains, etc.,” says Pan, an assistant professor at the National University of Singapore.

The meat contains high amounts of an iron that can cause insulin resistance, which may raise the risk of diabetes, he says. The food is also high in saturated fat and cholesterol and processed forms have nitrates and high levels of sodium that may also increase the danger of developing the disease, he says.

Researchers analyzed data and followed up with 26,357 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study, 48,709 women in the Nurses’ Health Study and 74,077 women in the Nurses’ Health Study 2. They assessed their diets through questionnaires every four years.

There were 7,540 cases of type 2 diabetes over the study.

The research showed that reducing red meat consumption by more than a half a serving per day from the start of the trial through the first four years of follow up resulted in a 14% lower risk of diabetes over the entire time period.

In an accompanying editorial, William Evans, vice president and head of the Muscle Metabolism Discovery Performance Unit at London-based GlaxoSmithKline Plc and an adjunct professor of geriatrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C., writes that it may not be the type of meat but the fat that can raise diabetes risk.

“There’s no reason why the color of meat itself is the thing that results in an increased risk in diabetes,” he says. “The overwhelming data would tell us it’s the amount of saturated fat. A chunk of cheddar cheese has as much fat and saturated fat as a T-bone steak.”

He says another study looking to find similar links between dairy, which can be high in saturated fats, and diabetes is needed to determine if the fats are the culprits.

Saturated fats increase inflammation in the body, leading to heart disease and insulin resistance.