3 Ways to Maximize Employer Diabetes Prevention Tools for Your Patients

For many of your patients, work makes up—and takes up—a great deal of their lives. In fact, it’s probably where they spend most of their time. So it only makes sense that their jobs would support them in their health, especially when it comes to type 2 diabetes prevention.

Type 2 diabetes is looming large over your patient population. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 84 million U.S. adults have prediabetes, elevated blood sugar levels, not high enough to be classified as diabetes. Nine out of 10 people don’t know they have the condition, but with prevention efforts, prediabetes is reversible.

An effective prevention tool is the CDC’s National Diabetes Prevention Program (National DPP), an evidence-based lifestyle change program that reduces disease progression by promoting healthy eating and increased physical activity. 

Getting patients enrolled in the program, however, can be a challenge so providing proper support can have a major impact. Here are three ways physicians can work with patients to encourage enrollment through the workplace and provide additional support after enrollment.

1. Screen patients for prediabetes to determine their eligibility.
In as little as five years, prediabetes can progress to type 2 diabetes. So an important first step is to screen your patients to determine if they have prediabetes. 

To make the process easier, the American Medical Association, along with the CDC, has developed the Prevent Diabetes STAT toolkit, which provides resources that help physicians screen and refer patients to a National DPP provider.

The toolkit includes such information as:

  • A roadmap on how to conduct screening, testing and referrals
  • A 1-minute prediabetes risk test for patients, available online or on paper
  • Handouts that explain next steps for patients once they’ve been diagnosed
  • Fact sheets that provide case study evidence on the effectiveness of lifestyle change programs

2. Encourage them to sign up for an employer-sponsored diabetes prevention program.

Once it’s been determined that a patient has prediabetes, the next step is ensuring that they enroll in a National DPP to make lifestyle adjustments to prevent type 2 diabetes. Participation in a National DPP reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes by up to 58 percent, according to a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Employers typically bear much of the costs of type 2 diabetes for their employees. According to a 2017 study in Population Health Management of commercially insured adults, during the first three years an individual progresses from prediabetes to type 2 diabetes, the average medical cost incurred is $8,000.

The toolkit offers information on where patients may be able to find a National DPP in their community. However, encouraging patients to talk with their companies about an employer-sponsored National DPP could increase their likelihood of enrolling.

The AMA recently launched the National DPP Employer Toolkit to provide helpful information to employers about offering the program to their employees. Employers may cover the cost of programs and build in incentives for enrollment and completion as well.

3. Provide additional support for patients when they do sign up for a National DPP.
When patients have enrolled in the program, it’s important that they complete it. As a physician, you can serve as a motivator and provide additional support and counseling to help ensure patients follow through the program to completion.

Without lifestyle changes, many patients with prediabetes will fall prey to type 2 diabetes, which can lead to other life-threatening conditions including heart attack, stroke and kidney failure. Now is the time to support your patients in making a change in support of their health.