Earlier this month, Corporate Insight attended the third annual Moonshots for Health Conference. Over a two-day span, industry leaders and health insurers gathered virtually to discuss current trends in the healthcare space and needs for the future. Speakers examined diabetes through several lenses: care models, health equity, prescription drug costs and treatment for older adults. With the prevalence of diabetes expected to increase by 54% between 2015 and 2030—affecting more than 54.9 million Americans—greater focus is needed on diabetes care and treatment across the country. As Sami Inkinen, CEO of Virta Health, mentioned, healthcare leaders should think very big and very transformative about the future.

This screenshot shows the introductory keynote session from the moonshot healthcare conference
Introductory Keynote Session

What Is Personalized Patient Care?

Personalized care offers patients tailored treatment plans that coordinate their medical and social service needs to produce the best results for their individual demands. The conference highlighted organizations that have implemented personalized care tools, such as Elevance Health, which uses the patient’s AI information to match them to the right provider. The individualized provider match builds connectivity between the patient and provider that will hopefully lead to trust and therefore better care. Care delivery and its coordination are important initiatives within the personalized care experience. For instance, a ride assistance program may be a productive solution for some individuals who need rides to appointments, but other individuals may rely on telehealth because in-person appointments take time away from work and childcare.

As discussed in CI’s March 2022 Health System Monitor Report (subscription required) on the diabetes care management experience, diabetes can be a difficult and debilitating chronic disease requiring considerable management and support. The report calls to attention the need to personalize care for diabetes patients through integrated care, support groups and individualized resources. On the ideal diabetes education, one report interviewee states:

“I don’t want to say more tailored to ‘me’ but… the majority of the information I see is about how to not make it [current health] worse. Not how to be better or enjoy your life more. …I would like to have information…on how different types of exercise or different types of situations impact [my] blood sugar. You can assume things, but then…when it comes down to it you don’t.”

Past Trends and Current Initiatives in Health Equity

The Moonshots for Health Conference highlighted health inequities across patients with chronic conditions, particularly focusing on how diabetes disproportionately affects different racial and ethnic groups. While one in 10 Americans have diabetes, Hispanic or Latino, Black or African American, and American Indian/Alaska Native groups’ diabetes prevalence rates surpass the national average. The complications of diabetes, such as kidney failure, eye disease, heart disease, etc., are also more common in these minority groups. Extensive research shows that certain diseases, including diabetes, disproportionately affect different populations due to the social determinants of health which includes income, housing, food, education, exposure to pollution, affordability of prescriptions, etc.

To begin actualizing equitable care, health plans and employers must engage in intentional planning of culturally responsive care. Darrell Gray II, Elevance Health Chief Health Equity Officer, states that Elevance Health seeks to lessen health inequality by focusing on food as medicine, maternal health and substance abuse disorders. Benjamin Jackson, AT&T VP of HR Technology & Analytics, shares AT&T’s initiative to subsidize healthy food options to mitigate food insecurity among its employees. As reported in CI’s October 2022 Health Plan Monitor Update, Florida Blue highlighted six health equity topics that the firm’s foundation supports including food insecurity, health literacy and substance abuse disorders. By combatting the social determinants of health, health plans and employers address inequity and actualize preventative measures which will reduce users’ future medical needs.

This chart shows diabetes rates for different racial and ethnic groups in the US
Prevalence of Type 2 Diabetes Among U.S. Adults by Racial and Ethnic Group

Combatting Rising Prescription Drug Costs by Using Food as Medicine

Dr. Kayla Cunningham, Endocrinologist and DEI Committee Co-Chair at Virta Heath, spotlights how food insecurity and skyrocketing prescription drug costs impact the racial disparities across diabetes patients. The recent White House conference on health, hunger and nutrition highlighted the importance of nutrition on chronic conditions, particularly diabetes. Diabetes patients are overspending on medications which reduces their income available for healthy food options, creating a cyclic pattern where patients must choose between nutrition or medications. Dora Hughes, Chief Medical Officer at the CMS Innovation Center, points out that improvements need to be made in screening and making referrals for beneficiaries who may face food insecurities. She states that these patients deserve personalized care that holistically treats and acknowledges their clinical and non-clinical needs. The conference urged health plans to consider preventive measures such as incorporating nutritious food as a part of the treatment plan. By coupling food as medicine with a personalized care plan, diabetes patients will have more than medications to aid them on their healthy journey.

Caring for Older Adults Requires Considering Mental Health and Home-Based Care

With the COVID-19 pandemic, several changes occurred in the older population, including increased rates of social isolation. Older adults with diabetes are especially at higher risk for depression and other mental health conditions, which in turn impacts physical health. Speakers at the Moonshots for Health Conference brought up the overlap between mental health and chronic disease as well as the tendency to treat mental health and physical health separately despite the connection between the two—points that were also raised at the 2022 AHIP Consumer Experience & Digital Forum.

The topic of home-based care came up as a recent survey from the National Poll on Health Aging found that 88% of those ages 50 to 80 felt that it was very or somewhat important to live at home as long as possible. Accompany Health, SCAN Health Plan and Quartz Health Solutions play a role in offering at-home care to patients, reducing the need to travel to providers and allowing them to receive care at the comfort of their homes. At the same time, speakers pointed out that home-based care may shift work and place labor on family members, adding to the challenges of delivering such care. Appropriate supervision models beyond conducting a patient chart audit are needed to make sure patients are receiving the care they need at home.

This screengrab shows a panel discussion from the Moonshots healthcare conference about older adult care
Innovative Care Solutions for Older Adults Session

At AHIP Consumer Experience & Digital Forum, several speakers referenced Google Maps as an example of a digital solution that can guide patients from start to finish for a seamless experience and the need for similar experiences in healthcare. David Hanekom, SVP and Chief Medical Officer at Quartz Health Solutions, brings up Amazon as another reference, with its ability to know consumers and their needs, as well as bring products directly to their door. The Moonshots for Health Conference truly highlighted the importance of looking at chronic care treatment and management from multiple viewpoints.

We look forward to tracking the latest trends and innovations at more conferences later this year. Read more about the healthcare space on our Insights page. And click here learn more about CI’s research services.

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Julia Boule
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Stephanie Chan