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Successful diabetes management program brings down cost of care

A diabetes program, developed with a Stanford scientist, helps cut costs of diabetes-related health care expenses by $815 per year per person.

A diabetes program that aims to help patients manage the disease through peer support has also shown the potential to save a few pretty pennies — actually, quite a bit more than a few.

The program is called Better Choices, Better Health - Diabetes (BCBH-D), and it facilitates online or in-person support groups that last for six weeks and encourage healthy eating, regular exercise and positive problem solving for diabetes-related issues. BCBH-D sprung up out of a collaborative effort involving Stanford public health specialist Kate Lorig, DrPH, who created the program, as well as researchers from the National Council on Aging Services (NCOA) and HealthCore (a subsidiary of Anthem).

After seeing that their program was used by thousands of diabetes patients, researchers conducted a study that evaluated the financial toll of diabetes care for those in the program. It turns out that those diabetes patients who participated in the program racked up a smaller bill.

According to a press release from NCOA, patients participating in BCBH-D saw a significant decrease in use of health-related resources such as emergency department visits (which decreased by 110 visits per 1,000 members per year) and outpatient visits (which decreased by 2,350 visits per 1,000 members per year).

The study, published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research showed that those enrolled in the BCBH-D workshop incurred $815 less in health care costs in the year following the program than those who did not participate in the program.

That may not seem like a big chunk of change, considering the yearly multibillion dollar bill for total diabetes health care expenses, but with some 30 million diabetes patients in the United States, that $815 per person could really add up.

In the press release, Lorig describes her take on BCBH-D and how it could make a significant difference to those who mange diabetes on a daily basis:

These studies show that Better Choices, Better Health® – Diabetes is both effective and scalable to millions of individuals online and in the community... The secret sauce seems to be giving people the confidence [that] they can do things. The task now is to make it more widely available to improve people’s quality of life while lowering the cost of care.

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