An employer healthcare group is trying to help businesses prevent and manage diabetes by showing them how technology can help them combat the disease.

The Northeast Business Group on Health this week released a guide showcasing ways in which digital tools can make a difference in addressing chronic diseases — diabetes in particular. The group calls the guide a “useful entry point” for employers exploring digital diabetes tools.

“Using these tools, employees can receive prompt and relevant guidance on the critical aspects of diabetes care, including diet, exercise and medication management, while also being linked to the delivery system for additional care management needs,” says Jeremy Nobel, NEBGH medical director and NEBGH’s Solutions Center executive director. “These tools also facilitate connection to others with diabetes as well as to friends and family, so that together, employees can receive the support they need and deserve.”

[Image credit: Fotolia]
[Image credit: Fotolia]

The NEBGH guide categorizes 25 diabetes tools — many of which are available directly to consumers as apps or online — according to six primary capabilities: group-based health courses with live coaches; integrated glucometer with enhanced communication; scripted algorithm-driven coaching; device data download and display; provider-based care management platform; and individualized live coaching.

The guide includes a checklist to specific features each tool contains, such as type of educational content, personal information-tracking components and social networking connectivity, the group says. It also rates each tool based on how likely it is to encourage engagement among employees — “a key challenge for employers in designing workplace diabetes interventions.”

Digital tools, the New York-based employer-led healthcare coalition says, can be advantageous in addressing diabetes as they offer convenience, personalization, data collection and management, customization of rewards and incentives, coaching and social networking.

These kinds of tools will grow increasingly important in the battle against chronic diseases, Nobel predicts.

“It is impossible to imagine any future scenario where these tools do not have an increasingly important role in the achievement of person-centered, high-value diabetes care,” he says.

Health and benefits experts have stressed the importance of fighting diabetes as the condition continues to rise at an alarming rate.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data, 29.1 million people, or 9.3% of the U.S. population, have diabetes. Another 86 million have higher-than-normal sugar levels that put them at higher risk of developing diabetes.

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“Diabetes ranks No. 1 among chronic illnesses and conditions in terms of both direct and indirect costs."

Workplaces in particular can reduce incidences of diabetes, reports have shown. One such study by Ohio State University, for example, found that employees who enrolled in a workplace intervention program as a group lost more weight, showed greater reductions in fasting blood sugar and ate less fat than employees who received only written health guidelines for diabetes prevention.

“Diabetes ranks No. 1 among chronic illnesses and conditions in terms of both direct and indirect costs,” Nobel says.

“Moreover, employees burdened by diabetes need to be actively engaged in their care in order to be able to be as healthy as possible,” he says. “The benefit of achieving those health goals is obviously of great importance on a personal level to employees and also allows them to meet or exceed workplace performance expectations.”

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