HAP Partners With Livongo on Tech-Enabled Diabetes Compliance Program
As digital health applications continue to grow in popularity, yet achieve only mixed results, one area in which tech-enabled tools have found success is among diabetes patients.
Health Alliance Plan (HAP), a Detroit-based nonprofit health insurance provider, wants to leverage that success with a new program in partnership with Mountain View, CA-based Livongo, maker of health tech tools. Called Livongo for Diabetes, the initiative allows HAP Medicare Advantage members with type 1 or type 2 diabetes to access personalized data and insights culled from a Livongo smart blood glucose meter at no extra cost. Participants also get real-time coaching and supplies shipped directly to them as they need it.
Peter Watson, a general internist who is HAP’s vice president of care management and outcomes, says his organization’s mission is to empower its members and facilitate care for those managing chronic diseases like diabetes. Watson says Livongo’s “growing capabilities in disease management, devices, and coaching” made it a good partner.
“We have a mutual alignment,” Watson says. “The nice thing about the program’s technique is it uses a device members are already familiar with.”
HAP members in the Livongo for Diabetes program use smart glucose meters to test blood sugar levels as required by their doctors. Within minutes of registering a high or low blood glucose reading, members receive a call or text from a Livongo coach. The communication gives patients insights based on their current and past readings, and are designed to help them make more informed decisions about managing their diabetes, Watson says. Members can add family, caregivers, or doctors to the list of people who receive their glucometer data in real time.
Watson says coaching is also available to members around the clock via text, calls, emails, and the Livongo app. If program participants have Amazon Alexa-enabled devices, they can ask those devices for blood glucose readings and other health tips.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than 30 million Americans have diabetes. People who don’t manage their diabetes are at increased risk for a number of negative outcomes, including stroke, heart disease, and vision loss. As many as 15 percent of HAP’s members could benefit from a program like Livongo for Diabetes, Watson surmises.
“Compliance for controlling diabetes is incredibly important—it can lead to all kinds of complications in almost every organ,” he adds. “We intend to look at [Livongo’s technology] and how it could be applied across our business lines. We chose to start with the Medicare population because we thought it would have the biggest impact.” The program could be expanded to other HAP members if it proves to be a success, he says.
HAP studied their members’ Medicare claims data from the past two years to find those that demonstrated evidence of diabetes management. The organization reached out to the people using glucometers by letter and told them how to go online to register with Livongo. Once they register, Livongo ships them a glucose meter and instructions on how to download the accompanying mobile app. When patients use the glucometers to check their blood sugar, the information is transmitted back to Livongo “within seconds,” Watson says, and they can also get spot coaching from the device itself.
“If the blood sugar reading is low, the device might ask how they’re feeling,” he explains. “If the reading is dangerously low, the member will be contacted along with whoever they’ve listed on their care team. It’s a great way to engage and respond to members’ needs immediately.” HAP can also send a nurse if the situation seems pressing, he says.
Besides helping to keep diabetes patients out of the emergency room, Watson says his organization’s partnership with Livongo represents a commitment to exploring innovation and technology.
“We’re really trying to meet members where they are,” Watson continues. “Longer term, it’s about how we can be supportive without being intrusive. Using technology can help us get the best possible outcomes.”
Watson says that within weeks of the diabetes program’s April launch, 600 members had already enrolled. HAP plans to continue working with Livongo on similar solutions and initiatives for patients with other chronic conditions like high blood pressure.