A look at the value of continuous glucose monitoring

For people with diabetes, hyperglycemia and hypoglycemia can impact health and, as a result, workplace performance. However real-time continuous glucose monitoring can enable people to prevent or treat these highs and lows.

“Out of the Canadian population, only about 10 per cent have diabetes, so it’s a small population in general,” said Suzanne Lepage, a private health plan strategist, during a session at Benefits Canada‘s Chronic Disease at Work conference in Toronto on June 5. “But when you break down that population, about 90 per cent have type 2 diabetes and only 10 per cent of that diabetes population has type 1. All type 1 diabetes patients are on intensive insulin therapy, so they all would benefit from having access to continuous glucose monitoring.”

Read: TTC hosts diabetes screening campaign for staff

In order to reduce the costs associated with diabetes, it’s necessary to think about the disease in a slightly different way, she added. “I think a lot of times when we look at costs, we look at the cost of the medications and we look at the supplies needed to manage the glucose. But what we really need to be looking at is that most of the costs come from some of the complications.”

By controlling a patient’s blood glucose, prevention of long-term complications, such as blindness, can possibly mean a reduction in costs, because either “we pay for health now or pay for sickness later,” said Lepage. “So what is the impact of diabetes on the workplace? There’s a Canadian study that looked at the fact that hypoglycemia can cost a workplace $815 per diabetes patient annually due to lost work productivity.”

Lepage referred to another study, which found that, when someone had a hypoglycemic event at work, 18 per cent had to leave or missed a full day, which represented about 10 hours of lost work time per month. “If they had a hypoglycemic event at night, that would affect 23 per cent of patients and about 15 hours of work lost per month.”

Read: Prediabetes among biggest concerns for employee health

Continuous glucose monitoring is a small, wearable device that provides real-time information about blood glucose, she noted. “So it’s a really important, new development experts are looking at . . . . It provides guidance and, by having a continuous glucose monitor on, you can look at your time and range and determine how effective you are at managing your blood sugar.”

Clinical studies have shown this type of monitoring can reduce the risk of hypoglycemic events by 72 per cent, added Lepage. “And remember, these are loss of consciousness, confusion, seizure, coma and again, if you remember the numbers, that can be an impact, just for the hypoglycemic event, of $815 per diabetes patient annually in terms of workplace impact.

“Overall, patients who use CGM have been proven to have more targeted blood glucose range and fewer hypoglycemic episodes, which, of course, leads to improved health outcomes, which is the long-term cost of diabetes, but also we can see improved productivity and reduced absenteeism.”

Read more articles from the 2019 Chronic Disease at Work conference.