What You Should Know:

– Digital diabetes management tools are failing to deliver meaningful health benefits to patients, according to a new evaluation by the Peterson Health Technology Institute (PHTI).

– The report casts doubt on the effectiveness of widely used digital diabetes management tools. Despite billions in investment, the study finds these tools offer minimal health benefits and actually increase healthcare spending.

Millions Rely on Tools, But Evidence Shows Little Impact

The PHTI analysis focused on eight popular tools for tracking blood sugar (non-continuous glucose monitors) used by people with Type 2 diabetes. While these tools promise better health outcomes and cost savings, the research paints a different picture:

  • Small, Unsustained Improvements: HbA1c reductions, a key diabetes measure, were minimal (0.23 to 0.60%) and didn’t last over time. These results fall short of the industry standard for meaningful change.
  • No Broader Health Benefits: The study found no significant improvements in weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, or other diabetes-related health factors.
  • Increased Costs for All Payers: The price of these tools outweighs any cost savings because the minimal benefits don’t prevent other treatments or care. Annual spending is projected to increase across all insurance types:
    • Commercial: +$2,002
    • Medicare: +$1,011
    • Medicaid: +$723

Bright Spots and Recommendations

The report identifies two potential areas for improvement:

  • Virta’s Nutritional Ketosis Approach: Early data suggests Virta’s program, which requires strict dietary changes, may lead to diabetes remission for some patients.
  • Early Intervention with High-Risk Patients: Digital tools might be more impactful for newly diagnosed patients with high starting HbA1c levels, helping them establish better self-management habits.

PHTI offers recommendations for the future of digital diabetes management:

  • Focus on Clinically Meaningful Benefits: New tools should aim for substantial HbA1c improvements, potentially integrating continuous glucose monitors and new medications.
  • Rigorous Evidence for Adoption: Developers need to generate stronger evidence to justify wider use.
  • Prioritize Access and Affordability: Solutions should be accessible for those who need them most and come at a lower cost than standard care.

Moving Forward: Transparency and Better Tools

The PHTI report calls for more transparency from providers and payers:

  • Providers: Doctors need clear information on tool performance before recommending them to patients.
  • Payers: Health plans and employers should require evidence of tool benefits and tie financial coverage to clinical outcomes.

“When these digital diabetes management tools launched more than a decade ago, they promised to improve health outcomes for people with diabetes and deliver savings to payers. Based on the scientific evidence, these solutions have fallen short, and it is time to move toward the next generation of innovation,” said Caroline Pearson, executive director of PHTI. “Patients with diabetes invest time, energy, and resources in these tools, and they deserve to experience meaningful, positive benefits for their health. The healthcare sector as a whole needs transparent, accurate information about the clinical and economic impact of these digital tools that are taking up precious healthcare dollars.”

This research aims to guide healthcare decision-making and accelerate the development of truly effective digital solutions for diabetes management. PHTI plans to conduct similar evaluations for virtual physical therapy, blood pressure monitoring, and mental health tools.

Click here for more information about the report.

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