Diabetes Is Common, but Care Can’t Be One-Size-Fits-All
Diabetes Is Common, but Care Can’t Be One-Size-Fits-All
By Sonja Hughes, MD, MHA, FACOG, Vice President, Strategy & Service Excellence at Aetna, a CVS Health company
Babyboomers.com Staff

For the 1.4 million Americans who are diagnosed with diabetes each year, finger pricks, dietary considerations and the risk of complications serve as daily reminders of the importance of proper care. People aged 65 and older account for 30% of national cases, making living with diabetes potentially something you or a loved one experiences. Prevention, screening and management are key concerns for older adults.   

It’s important to be aware of common symptoms and have access to needed care for diabetes, and chronic conditions in general. The growing popularity of telehealth and the rise of initiatives aimed at providing personalized diabetes care are converging to address gaps and improve health outcomes including overall access. This is one way we can address health disparities among racial and ethnic demographics within the 65+ community. Aging populations with convenient access to digitally enabled care and custom care management plans are better prepared to prevent the onset and progression of diabetes and related conditions.

Telehealth Helps Address Inequities

Lack of access for needed support is a main contributor to health inequities. Members of underserved communities might have more difficulty accessing information about diabetes symptoms and management. Those that obtain a diagnosis might put off medical appointments due to cost of care, work or childcare obligations, access to transportation or some combination of these and other factors.

Treatment also varies because many different types of conditions stem from diabetes. For example, people living with diabetes are at an elevated risk of developing chronic kidney disease (CKD). Though CKD is manageable with proper care, members of underserved communities are less likely to have access to the care they need, when they need it. However, since the COVID-19 pandemic, more health care providers are embracing digitalization – an important step to expanding access to timely care. Telehealth, for instance, allows those living with diabetes to describe symptoms, discuss treatment options and engage in medication management with their doctor from the comfort and convenience of home. It’s important to speak with your doctors to see if there are digital care options right for you.

Care Gets Personal

There are also plenty of steps that those with diabetes can take to manage their own health, just make sure to consult a health care professional before making lifestyle changes. In addition to digitally enabled, personalized care, people with diabetes who supplement medication with proper nutrition and regular physical exercise are well-equipped to keep their blood sugar at a healthy range and prevent or correct glucose spikes.

Tools such as step counters can also provide an accurate view of physical activity levels and encourage those with diabetes to exercise more regularly. It’s also important to help ensure people have access to information and care professionals to help identify and avoid foods high in carbohydrates and sugar and incorporate more regular, balanced meals into their diet.

A comprehensive care plan might involve a team of dedicated professionals that help you navigate the health care system and engage in healthy behaviors. Technology can help improve care team communications to promote an agile treatment approach. For example, connected blood pressure cuffs and glucose monitoring meters can provide care team members with timely patient information, so they can coordinate to guide you through the appropriate adjustments in real time.

Know Your Coverage

It’s important to understand how your health care coverage can help you manage your diabetes or other chronic conditions. For instance, check if your plan encompasses preventative diabetes screenings, medication adherence, health monitoring and lifestyle and comorbidity management. Aetna Medicare Advantage Diabetes Program fits the bill, offering eligible Aetna Medicare Advantage members access to individualized insights on their health, local health resources and specialized technology, including glucose meters that connect with the CVS Health Tracker™ mobile app offering members with additional resources and insights.

Aetna offers Medicare Advantage members access to telehealth services. Members may also be eligible for an Aetna Medicare Extra Benefits Card, which is a new, preloaded debit card with a quarterly allowance that can be used towards the purchase of over the counter (OTC) items, as well as support services for qualifying conditions. Programs like these that support a healthy lifestyle help older Americans make daily decisions that can vastly improve their ability to prevent and manage diabetes.

For those who are not currently insured, it’s important to know all your options since insurance can further help improve health outcomes with additional treatment support, especially when it comes to chronic care management for conditions like diabetes. The Medicare Annual Enrollment Period (AEP) recently ended and Individual and Family Plan (IFP) open enrollment is open, so be sure to check your options for the right plan for you. Medicaid enrollment is also always available to those who qualify.

Transforming Diabetes Care

From telehealth options to personalized care plans should consider a person’s unique needs, lifestyle and preferences. Americans, especially those aged 65 and older, should take advantage of the available resources that can help them keep a consistent, continuous commitment to keeping their diabetes under control.

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