Starting Off T1 Without a Roadmap

Diabetes care plans lead to better health outcomes. So why don’t more people with diabetes have them?

Benjamin Franklin once said that “by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” That’s solid advice for people with diabetes, because creating a health plan with your physician can greatly improve not only your health and diabetes management, but also your quality of life. Such a plan can be like a roadmap or reference point to keep you on track to reach your long-term health care goals.

According to the UK’s National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (or NICE), every person diagnosed with diabetes should get a personalized plan of action from their doctor, with specialized treatment plans detailing out daily care. However, a recent study conducted by Diabetes UK found that almost two-thirds of people diagnosed with diabetes didn’t have a personal care plan in place. This is problematic for a few reasons. On the patient level, not having a detailed plan of action for effectively managing T1 can bring on complications that could have been avoided. More importantly, establishing a healthy routine is key to keeping the effects of diabetes at bay, and a strong care plan can go a long way in helping establish an overall healthy lifestyle change.

There are a number of studies that tout the benefits of having such a plan, including one from the Diabetes Care Journal in 2002 which found that quality of care increased while there was a significant reduction in healthcare costs when plans were in place. That study tracked over 6,000 people with diabetes, roughly half with and half without a management plan. What the study found was that those with a plan had less need to use health care resources, including doctor’s visits and inpatient hospital care. That resulted in over $100 of savings per patient over a two-year period. Such savings may seem small, but it quickly adds up, especially when you consider the growing segment of the population with Type 2 diabetes. And if the same study were done today, it would be sure to show even more savings in investing in preventive measures.

Ignoring such low-hanging fruit of preventive medicine increases the costs of diabetes care, since many complications can be avoided through better planning. By ensuring that every person diagnosed with T1 receives a tailored care plan that will help educate them on how to manage their diabetes, you give people the power to live healthier lives and make health care resources more efficient and effective.

Ideally, a care plan is something that your physician will help you develop to better manage your diet, schedule insulin doses, and avoid situations that could induce a bout of hypoglycemia or other serious complications. A good care plan is often an agreement between patient (or the patient’s family) and a physician which lists out a meal plan, exercise plan, schedule of insulin doses, potential support services needed, emergency contact numbers, and goals or targets for daily blood glucose control and A1C levels. Plans should be reviewed annually, if possible.

If you are one of the majority of people with diabetes without a formal care plan in place, consider talking with your doctor about creating one right away. In an ideal world, every physician would ask T1 patients about a plan, but in reality it’s going to be up to patients to take the initiative. Even if you’ve had T1 for years and you haven’t created a plan until now, it’s never too late to start planning ahead for good health.

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John Sjolund is the co-founder and CEO of Timesulin, a European company that manufactures a timer-enabled replacement cap for insulin pens. He was diagnosed T1 at age 3.