Every day, tens of millions of Americans base their day around a set of numbers. Be it a prick of a needle or a monitoring device attached to their body, people with diabetes know the importance of monitoring their blood glucose levels. Their health depends on it.
High blood sugar can damage tiny blood vessels in the eyes, which is a leading cause of adult-onset blindness and may lead to cataracts and glaucoma (high fluid pressure in the eye). Damage can also occur to the kidneys, often without producing any symptoms. That, may lead to chronic kidney disease and eventually to kidney failure. People with diabetes are also twice as likely to have heart disease or stroke as those without. As of 2015, the number of Americans living with diabetes topped 30 million, or 9 percent of the population.
Treating the condition comes at a cost. It’s estimated that more than 20 percent of health care spending in the United States is for people with diabetes. In 2017, that amounted to an estimated $327 billion.
To address the substantial burden of diabetes, UnitedHealthcare is bringing its experience in creating value-based programs with hospitals and physicians to new areas of health care. Through a relationship with Medtronic, UnitedHealthcare is placing greater emphasis on patients’ health outcomes and the total cost of a person’s care, rather than just paying device companies for the number of pumps ordered.
In the last year, UnitedHealthcare has combined its data with Medtronic’s to analyze how access to, and proper use of, market-leading pump technology may help prevent dangerous blood sugar lows and diabetes complications. That relationship is producing new clinical insights to successfully managing Type 1 diabetes.
These are the kinds of steps that are essential to containing the rise in medical costs throughout our health care system, while also pushing for new innovations to improve health outcomes. First -year results showed a 27 percent reduction in preventable hospital admissions for Medtronic insulin pump users compared to patients on multiple daily injections of insulin.
The advantages of Value-based Care suggest that the popularity of the model will only increase in the future. Employers can help manage their health care costs, while employees see quality and affordable treatment. Over the next several years, both groups will closely study both quality of care and cost to help provide additional opportunities for UnitedHealthcare members to better manage their diabetes and for quality care to be delivered cost-effectively.