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Reducing costs for patients with diabetes: What you need to know

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Intermountain Healthcare and other health providers across the nation have partnered with the American Medical Group Association to help improve care for more than one million people with type 2 diabetes.

The AMGA’s campaign, Together 2 Goal, is a collaboration with health care providers to improve the quality of life and reduce costs for patients with diabetes.

The AMGA, Intermountain, and other partners began the initiative in 2016 to implement best-practice care processes for the care of type 2 diabetes patients. Of the one million people who have improved their health through the Together 2 Goal program, approximately 34,0000 are Intermountain Healthcare patients.

“Intermountain and the AMGA are both are committed to establishing, measuring, and adhering to evidence-based best practice medicine at the lowest cost possible. Improvement is slow, but our data shows slow and steady improvement,” said Mark R. Greenwood, MD, Intermountain’s Primary Care Clinical Program medical director.

Dr. Greenwood oversees the program for Intermountain and mentors clinicians at national partner institutions, specifically helping integrate emotional and behavioral support into program design.

What is Diabetes?

Diabetes can strike anyone, from any walk of life. And it does – in numbers that are dramatically increasing. Today, more than 30 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes. Worldwide, more than 422 million people have diabetes. Diabetes is a serious condition that causes higher than normal blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when your body cannot make or effectively use its own insulin, a hormone made by special cells in the pancreas called islets (eye-lets). Insulin serves as a “key” to open your cells, to allow the sugar (glucose) from the food you eat to enter. Then, your body uses that glucose for energy.

Understanding type 1

Here’s what you need to know about type 1 diabetes. 1.25 million Americans have it and 40,000 people will be diagnosed with it this year. Type 1 diabetes occurs at every age, in people of every race, and of every shape and size. There is no shame in having it, and you have a community of people ready to support you. Learning as much as you can about it and working closely with your diabetes care team can give you everything you need to thrive.

In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin. The body breaks down the carbohydrates you eat into blood sugar that it uses for energy—and insulin is a hormone that the body needs to get glucose from the bloodstream into the cells of the body. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, everyone can learn to manage their condition and live long healthy lives.

Remember: this is a condition that can be managed. By living a healthy lifestyle filled with exercise and proper diet, you can live a normal life and do everything you set out to do.

Understanding type 2

Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes—and it means that your body doesn’t use insulin properly. And while some people can control their blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to help manage it. Regardless, you have options—and tools, resources, and support to help you fight.

A key part of managing type 2 diabetes is maintaining a healthy diet. You need to eat something sustainable that helps you feel better and still makes you feel happy and fed. Remember, it’s a process. Work to find helpful tips and diet plans that best suit your lifestyle—and how you can make your nutritional intake work the hardest for you.

Together 2 Goal Program

To date, more than 150 medical groups and health systems have joined the effort and improved outcomes for their patient populations, resulting in more people with safer ranges for critical diabetes measures, like blood sugar and blood pressure. 

As a founding member of the Together 2 Goal program, Intermountain’s Medical Group Diabetes Care Process Model serves as the primary source material for much of the initiative. Providers and caregivers around the country are using the model to measure and improve key diabetic metrics, including A1C results, blood pressure control, and kidney and eye screenings.

One of Intermountain’s patients was a historically uncompliant type 2 diabetic and as such, his numbers weren’t in control.  By focusing on lifestyle and weight loss, he was able to stop some of his diabetic and blood pressure medications, and his numbers are now in control. He also feels a lot better.  The Together 2 Goal program helped motivate and facilitate many of these changes.

Another patient has been a type 1 diabetic for more than 50 years.  Her story is the evolution of diabetic care from the early days before glucometers and human insulin, to early glucometers, now to continuous glucose meters and insulin pumps. 

Most diabetics of this duration have had significant complications or death. Despite all of these factors, she has managed to control her diabetes very well and has had minimal complications. She is a model example for other patients to see how they can take control of their condition.

“The rewards have been profound,” said Dr. Greenwood. “The quality of diabetic control for patients at Intermountain and across the country continues to improve. It is very satisfying to meet with a patient who is eating better, exercising, losing weight, and following the guidelines and see how their life and health improve.”

“Thanks to the commitment of groups like Intermountain, we were able to achieve a remarkable goal,” said John Kennedy, MD, AMGA chief medical officer, and AMGA Foundation president. “Intermountain Healthcare has helped us move the needle in combating one of the nation’s most pressing chronic conditions.”

Despite surpassing the one million patient goal, medical groups and health systems across the nation will continue to implement Together 2 Goal best practices through 2021. Participating groups will use the remainder of the campaign to hardwire care processes to make improvements sustainable, and new organizations can learn from the work that’s already been done.

This story contains sponsored content.

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