Improving type 2 diabetes treatment outcomes may be key to controlling healthcare costs

Lowering healthcare costs while improving treatment outcomes are among the top concerns of medical professionals and lawmakers at the moment. Improving the care of individuals with type 2 diabetes may be one of the most effective areas to begin addressing these problems.

Type 2 diabetes is one of the most expensive conditions to care for. The frequent needs for medications and testing supplies result in high costs, and it is associated with an increased risk for other costly chronic conditions like heart disease, kidney failure and liver damage.

One way to improve the care of individuals with the condition may be to make doctor visits more accessible. A recent study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine showed that diabetes patients who visited their physician more frequently had much better health than those who saw their doctor less often.

For the study, a team of researchers from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston analyzed the medical records of 26,496 individuals with type 2 diabetes. The results showed that those who saw their doctor once every two weeks made much quicker improvements in blood sugar control, cholesterol levels and blood pressure management.

The findings could have important implications for helping patients manage their type 2 diabetes, as the team pointed out that most treatment guidelines do not include any recommendations for how often patients should be seen by their doctors.

Despite this, there are many advantages to regular office visits. A doctor can measure a person's disease risk factors to make sure they are doing all they can to improve their health. If it looks as though an individual has not made any changes in their life, the physician can recommend lifestyle changes.

Still, this frequency of office visits may not be appropriate for all patients. Given the rising cost of care, not everyone will be able to afford bi-monthly visits. However, individuals who have poorly controlled diabetes may be ideal candidates for this model. More regular office visits could help these patients get their health back on track and limit their risk of complications, the researchers said.

Aside from more frequent office visits, patient education could be another important factor in controlling healthcare spending on diabetics. Regardless of how often an individual sees their doctor, they are still on their own for the majority of each day. The decisions they make during this time may be the single biggest influence over their ability to manage their condition.

The American Association of Diabetes Educators says that helping individuals learn how to take control of their own health may be the most important thing that can be done to improve outcomes and lower costs.

Utilizing this combination of approaches may be key to helping individuals with type 2 diabetes live healthier lives. Doing so could produce better value in healthcare, making improved quality available at lower costs.