Nearly every day we see reminders of the magnitude of the type 2 diabetes epidemic both in the United States and abroad. A recent Healthcaredive article provided a sobering overview of how devastating type 2 diabetes has become for both patients and the economy, citing a report by the Health Care Cost Institute (HCCI), a non-profit research organization focused on healthcare spending for Americans covered by private insurance.

Diabetes and related complications rang up $245 billion in total medical costs and lost work and wages in 2012, or about 20% of all healthcare spending in the country; this amount was up from $174 billion in 2007, according to the Centers for Disease Control. The vast majority of spending is for type 2 diabetes, which accounts for 90-95 percent of diabetes diagnoses.

What’s more, those costs continue to climb sharply.

Looking at the most recent data (2014), the HCCI found that healthcare spending for people with diabetes covered by employer-sponsored insurance grew nearly twice as fast as spending for non-diabetics, topping $16,000 per capita. That was $10,000 more than spending on people without diabetes.

Consider that people with diabetes:

  • had twice as many doctor and ER visits.
  • took over five times more prescription drugs.
  • used more services related to mental health.
  • used more services related to cardiovascular disease.
  • had seven times more prescriptions for cardiovascular drugs, which were their most commonly used drugs, rather than insulin.
  • spent two-and-a-half times more out of pocket for their healthcare than those without diabetes.

As we’ve said all along at Virta, this is an out-of-control situation for so many people living with diabetes, and something needs to change. The medical standard of care is to advise type 2 diabetics to “eat less and exercise more” and to view the progression of their illness as inevitable. We believe this is flat-out wrong: we need to give people new tools to solve, not just manage, this diabetes epidemic. That is why Virta was created.

Virta is an online specialty clinic providing patients with dedicated metabolic health experts right at their fingertips. As demonstrated in a published clinical trial,[1] Virta successfully reverses type 2 diabetes: in preliminary results at one year, 58 percent of trial participants reduced their A1c count to below-diabetic levels without medications other than metformin; 97 percent reduced or eliminated their use of insulin; and the number of prescribed medications for oral glucose control, excluding metformin, was reduced across the population by 84 percent. [2]

By contributing to type 2 diabetes reversal in a population, employers, health plans, and providers will see significant—even massive—cost savings through reduction of medical claims and prescription drug claims. The ER visits, physician visits, cardiovascular co-morbidities, mental health co-morbidities and other medical services that are disproportionately used by those struggling with type 2 diabetes all stand to be reduced with the Virta program.

And in addition to those savings, employers, health plans, and providers all have an opportunity to make substantial improvements to the lives of their employees, members, and patients. While a healthier population generally translates to fewer absences, higher productivity, and a more engaged workforce, there’s great satisfaction also in generating improved quality of life, and nurturing a happy, healthy, and satisfied workplace culture. For professionals engaged in the business of caring for the wellbeing of employees, members, and patients, it’s the highest calling and the greatest reward.

 

Works cited

1. McKenzie AL, Hallberg SJ, Creighton BC, Volk BM, Link TM, Abner MK, Glon RM, McCarter JP, Volek JS, Phinney SD. A Novel Intervention Including Individualized Nutritional Recommendations Reduces Hemoglobin A1c Level, Medication Use, and Weight in Type 2 Diabetes. JMIR Diabetes. 2017;2(1):e5

2. Hallberg S, McKenzie A, Bhanpuri N, Volk B, Hazbun T, McCarter J, Phinney S, Volek J. Remote Care Promotes Low Carbohydrate Diet Adherence and Glycemic Control Allowing Medication Reduction in Type 2 Diabetes [abstract]. Diabetes. 2017; 66 (suppl 1a): LB