Over 37 million adults have diabetes in the U.S., with 1.4 million new cases in 2019. Diabetes care management traditionally included in-person doctor’s visits, phone calls to set up appointments or refill medications, and pharmacy trips to pick up prescriptions. But now, as healthcare continues to shift to digital platforms and methods, patients are gaining access to virtual diabetes care management. Diabetes care is entering the digital age.

In Corporate Insight’s recent Type 1 Diabetes Care Management Experience report (Health Systems Monitor subscription required), we interviewed patients about their diabetes care management, focusing on the availability and quality of digital resources and tools. We found that many prefer to use continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) that sync to a smartphone app for blood sugar management, a more convenient option compared to pen and paper tracking.

Many respondents also rely on online patient portals to schedule appointments and view test results. One patient we interviewed spoke highly of Kaiser Permanente’s centralized patient portal, which allows her to refill medications without paying on the spot and get prescriptions delivered to her house. This sort of closed loop system not only provides a straightforward and intuitive user experience but also removes the need to physically go to retail pharmacies.

Kaiser Permanente Mobile App – Pharmacy and Shopping Cart Screens

CI saw an influx of virtual diabetes care programs released this year as the industry moves toward digital management, although these programs are mainly geared towards Type 2 diabetics. Carbon Health, a primary care-focused company, recently launched a care program with both in-person and virtual support, in addition to an app that allows patients to enter information about their meals and exercise. This allows providers to assess the associations between food, exercise and medications.

On the insurer side, Highmark Health is partnering with Onduo to provide a virtual health clinic that offers remote prescriptions, care coordination between endocrinologists and primary care physicians, and a personalized management plan. This can be seen as a continuation of Highmark’s interest in the diabetes care management space, as the firm currently offers a Diabetes Prevention Program to eligible prediabetic Medicare members.

This screenshot shows Highmark BCBS's diabetes prevention program
Highmark BCBS Medicare Member Site – Diabetes Prevention Program Page

Startups are also moving into the digital care management experience for diabetes. 9am.health recently received $16 million in funding to set up a virtual diabetes management clinic for those with prediabetes and Type 2 diabetes. Patients can obtain personalized treatment plans, home delivery prescriptions and at-home lab diagnostics for $25 a month.

So what does this mean for those with diabetes? Patients can expect companies to launch even more digital management programs and tools to help manage diabetes, from tracking blood sugar levels and getting prescriptions online to having virtual visits with providers. As the COVID-19 pandemic accelerates telehealth usage across the country, patients may be finding digital options more convenient and valuable. This is in line with sentiments expressed by older respondents from our user study, who recall the education they received upon their diagnosis decades ago and note that the current diabetes space is amazing, given digital resources and the Internet.

Corporate Insight continues to closely monitor the digital user experience across leading health plans and health systems. Within our Health Systems Monitor, we interview respondents about their user experiences across various patient journeys. Look to our blog for further insights on the nation’s leading healthcare firms and read more about creating the best healthcare UX here.