Study Finds Mental Health Has Been A Bigger Concern for People Living with Diabetes than Diabetes Itself During Covid-19

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New survey of Cecelia Health's Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialists indicates the need for interim health coaching to address emotional, technical, and clinical needs of people living with diabetes.

For people with diabetes, the past pandemic year has magnified every challenge the condition presents, closing gyms, reducing access to fresh food when regular grocery shopping was disrupted, and leading people to stockpile insulin, test strips and other medical supplies in case of shortages.

But it was mental health that topped the agenda of concerns for those who rely on clinical coaches to support them in between physician appointments, according to a new survey of more than 100 Certified Diabetes Care & Education Specialists (CDCES) employed by Cecelia Health.

Seventy-seven percent of respondents said they had discussed depression, anxiety or other mental health issues during pandemic coaching sessions, more than the topic of diabetes itself (71%), obesity (65%), cardiovascular disease (52%) or substance abuse (10%).

“Managing diabetes requires managing mental health every single day. Stress and anxiety disrupt blood sugar. Depression and listlessness can negatively affect someone’s nutrition, medication regimen and exercise schedule,” said David Weingard, who founded Cecelia Health following his own diagnosis of Type 1 diabetes and his life-changing coaching experience with a CDCES. “It’s why we work only with certified clinician coaches who are cross-trained in mental health. These findings really underscore the importance of human touch in supporting a person with a chronic condition.”

Nationally, 1 in 4 people with diabetes experience significant symptoms of depression, and episodes of depression tend to be more persistent than for people without diabetes, according to scientific studies.

In addition to discussing mental health issues, CDCES survey respondents reported guiding members in uploading data from remote devices, in some cases having them hold up their glucose monitors to a video screen or talking them through menus over the phone to help them find settings and read results that typically would have been done in a medical office setting.

Support in navigating remote medical appointments was also a high priority, according to clinicians, and responses suggest a wide variety in patients’ ability to adapt—again underscoring the importance of tailored support, especially as physician offices and device manufacturers were learning on-the-fly how to improve user experience in virtual settings. In a ranking of top concerns from 1 to 5, coaches said the following were the most common:

  • Technical issues with logging on to doctor’s appointments (59%)
  • Making the best use of their time with their doctor in a virtual setting (47%)
  • Uploading data from devices (39%). For 55%, it was a bottom-two concern. The survey included coaches whose patients both do and do not use medical devices like continuous glucose monitors.

Notably, 69% of coaches said they had discussed financial concerns over the past year, and that financial concerns are the No. 1 issue that coaches expect to come up in conversations over the next six months (51%).

“We’ve had over one million remote and virtual engagements with patients who have chronic conditions over the last six years. Tracking their concerns during the pandemic has informed the guidance we’re giving our payer, provider, medical device and pharmaceutical clients,” said Mark Clermont, CEO of Cecelia Health. “Besides providing clinical coaching to address the acute needs of members managing chronic conditions, we’re also sharing these insights with our customers so they can adapt their user experiences to member realities—for example, medical device companies may want to provide more video instructions for their remote monitors, and payers may want to check in with members to make sure financial concerns aren’t preventing people from accessing care.”

The data comes from Cecelia Health, a virtual health company that empowers people with diabetes and chronic conditions to live better and healthier lives, which surveyed a segment of its CDCES on their patients’ experiences during the year of the pandemic. Questions were fielded in April 2021, and 107 clinical coaches shared responses.

About Cecelia Health

Cecelia Health positively transforms the lives of people living with diabetes and other chronic diseases. Our technology-enabled personalized coaching solution optimizes patient health outcomes at high ROI for our customers and healthcare partners via a tailored mix of expert clinician and digital health interactions. With over one million remote patient interactions, Cecelia Health has been a pioneer in delivering telehealth and chronic disease management solutions.

We work with partners to coach their members/patients and provide unique data-driven insights to health plans and ACOs seeking to improve quality measures, and pharmaceutical and medical device companies seeking to improve adherence. We actively support, partner, and engage with various influential organizations within the diabetes community, including JDRF, Beyond Type 1, American Diabetes Association, the Diabetes Research Institute, the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists, and The Jaeb Center for Health Research.

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Victor Baldry
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