Humana has come a long way in understanding diabetes and learning how to make health easier for our members, said Chris Kay, Chief Innovation Officer, in kicking off World Diabetes Day events at the Louisville headquarters. But he urged those in attendance to keep learning, to keep empathizing with members, and to keep finding new pathways for treating the disease, noting that nine percent of the world’s population has diabetes.

“This is a goal in action; this is a goal that is working,” he said.

He said that over 4,000 Humana associates have participated in the Diabetes Prevention Program, with 75 percent completing the program and losing an average 3 to 4 percent of body weight.

“Said another way, 24 percent of those who have had problems managing their blood glucose level have brought their numbers back into control,” he said.

He lauded the passion, enthusiasm, expertise and caring of Humana associates as they help diabetics gain control of their disease and get back to living.

Multiple experiential exhibits showcased diabetes-related topics like associate well-being, Humana’s Bold Goal, diabetic foot wounds and care, MyDiabetes Path, Humana’s Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP) and the Humana Guidance Centers and fitness centers.

Several panel discussions took place in the afternoon, the first led by Tim State, Vice President, Associate Health and Well-being; Pattie Dale Tye, Segment Vice President; and Sarah Ahmad, Vice President of Consumer Health Solutions.

“I have the privilege of waking up every morning and thinking about the health and well-being of our associate community,” Tim said. “Diabetes has reached epidemic proportions. Nine out of 10 cases of diabetes can be prevented, but nine out of 10 people with pre-diabetes don’t know they have it. If one associate in our community goes on to develop diabetes – though there might have been something we could do to help prevent it – that’s personal to me, and to all of us.”

Sarah talked about the importance of understanding consumer needs, spending time with people with diabetes and truly understanding the barriers to health.

“I’ve met so many people who touched me personally and made me realize how tough it is every day to make decisions and choices that are good, healthy habits,” she said. “It’s tough, and there are so many different things coming at people. Seeing people thinking about diabetes, and making that top of mind when there’s so many other things that they’re facing, was a big insight for me.”

She talked about her family’s history of diabetes and her father’s successful effort to keep his pre-diabetes from progressing. “I didn’t know how personal this was for me until I started this work around diabetes.”

Pattie Dale, who leads Humana’s Bold Goal efforts, said diabetes was at the top of the list among all Humana Bold Goal communities when they sought help dealing with barriers to health.

She talked about the importance of making it easy for people to achieve their best health.

“It is very hard to be healthy,” she said, noting that 29 percent of Humana’s Medicare Advantage membership has diabetes. “What we work to do, is help our communities find ways to impact diet, exercise and adherence to medications. We’ve had success, but this is long-journey work.”

Sarah mentioned Humana’s work with Omada and Livongo, companies that provide digital therapeutics to help diabetics, and MyStandards, a diabetes education program co-created with the American Diabetes Association.

And Pattie Dale spoke about the importance of “social determinants of health.”

“Twenty percent of our Medicare Advantage members have an annual income of less than $20,000 a year,” she said. “That means those folks don’t always have an option with transportation to their doctor’s office, with what they get to eat, with healthy neighborhoods to engage in. And that’s a lot of where the work we do comes in with the community. Those social determinants of health are going to get in the way of someone trying to do the right thing for their health.”

In San Antonio, Humana has been working with MCCI and the San Antonio Food Bank to help seniors who are food insecure. “If they’re going without food, they’re probably going without medication,” she said.

She also spoke of a Humana program in South Florida that screens people to find those who are food insecure.

A second session featured three Humana associates – Susan Jones, Ed Kaywork and Yonbretta Stewart – talking about their own experience with diabetes.

Susan has Type 1 diabetes and says it has dramatically changed her lifestyle.

“I have to plan ahead, and I have to think ahead,” she said. “I’ve never met a doughnut that I didn’t like.”

She explained her continuous glucose monitor and her glucose pump.

Ed has a son with Type 1 diabetes, and he talked about the importance of managing the disease while also cultivating a healthy family life.

“You get to focus on what’s most important,” he said. “When there’s that type of illness in the house, it tends to bring a lot more love and a lot less nonsense to the forefront.”

Yonbretta has family members dealing with Type 2 diabetes. With the help of a Humana-sponsored DPP program, she’s made lifestyle changes to avoid it and to set a good example for her son. “My purpose is to be here for my son,” she said.

“We’ve changed our eating habits; we’ve even changed our routines,” she said. “We rip and run all the time; I’m super busy. My son plays football, basketball, baseball. We’re constantly going. But knowing that I can still adapt what I’ve learned from the program into my busy lifestyle is what pulled me in. There are gradual changes that we make, and these are things we learn during the class.”

The third panel discussion of the day featured Shannon Horsley, Colin Drylie, Stephanie Weidenborner and Sonja Soto talking about the importance of diabetic foot care.

Sonja is a nurse who has diabetes, and she has firsthand experience with retinopathy and other complications. She had a high-risk pregnancy, and she’s currently managing a foot ulcer.

“I’m really here just to put a different face on what, in your mind, a diabetic person would present like,” she said. “I’ve had diabetes for 33 years; I’ve been a nurse for 21 years.”

Colin, a member of Humana’s Innovation team, talked about the importance of visiting members in their homes to see firsthand their barriers to health and to learn what inspires them to live better – whether it’s visits with family, outings with friends, or personal interests and hobbies.

“It’s not just about removing barriers, it’s about helping people latch onto what’s motivating them,” he said.

Humana associates (from left) Yonbretta Stewart, Ed Kaywork and Susan Jones spoke with moderator Robbie Tindall about how their lives had been touched by diabetes. (Photo by Lisa Huber, Humana)
Humana associates (from left) Yonbretta Stewart, Ed Kaywork and Susan Jones spoke with moderator Robbie Tindall about how their lives had been touched by diabetes. (Photo by Lisa Huber, Humana)
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Duane Wregglesworth, of Buchanan, MI, has lived with Type 2 diabetes for five years, but he admits it’s only since mid-January that he’s really learned how to avoid many of the complications that come with this condition.

Wregglesworth, 82, is one of 500 Humana Medicare Advantage members living with diabetes who will participate in the remote monitoring pilot program aimed at improving self-care management and reducing hospital admissions and in-patient costs. Humana and Pharos Innovations, a leading provider of aging-services technologies, are partnering on the telehealth pilot that includes Humana members in Texas, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin.

“I never knew that activities like walking barefoot on the beach and soaking my feet in hot water could cause problems for people with diabetes,” said Wregglesworth. “I’ve also learned that symptoms, like a tingling sensation in the arms and legs, are related to my diabetes.”

Humana Cares/Senior Bridge, Humana’s national chronic care management division, is identifying and managing the 500 Humana Medicare Advantage members who will participate in the six-month “Activities of Daily Living” in-home pilot aimed at helping people remain independent and in their homes.

Using Pharos’ patented technology platform, called Tel-Assurance®, pilot participants will self-report health information daily, such as blood sugar, symptoms, diet and medication adherence, using whatever communication they prefer: a cellphone, telephone or Internet. Tel-Assurance nurses review the information and reach out to the members if there are any areas of concern.

“We know that people living with diabetes can do so much to improve their quality of life just by monitoring their conditions daily and by learning the activities that will have an impact, positive or negative, on their conditions,” said Gail Miller, Humana Cares/Senior Bridge Vice President of Telephonic Care Management Operations. “This user-friendly system also allows us to intervene more quickly if a member is having complications related to their diabetes.”

Humana Cares/SeniorBridge supports more than 400,000 individuals who have chronic conditions, struggle with daily activities and are frequently hospitalized, as well as their family members and caregivers.

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