Medtronic, one of the largest medical tech companies in the world, recently announced a partnership with Capital District Physicians’ Health Plan (CDPHP) that will supply diabetics with insulin pumps while saving the insurance company money.
CDPHP is a not-for-profit health insurance company based in Albany, New York. This special partnership with Medtronic will allow their eligible members access to some of the most advanced diabetes technology available. In return for covering the products, Medtronic guarantees eligible CDPHP members will reach certain diabetes management goals such as lower A1Cs, increased time spent in range, and fewer hypoglycemic events.
This new partnership has the potential to help both companies. But does it also provide a benefit to the members of CDPHP who live with diabetes?
The Positives of Partnership
By agreeing to cover Medtronic’s top-of-the-line diabetes management technology, CDPHP is giving its customers access to tools they can use to improve their overall health.
One major factor in this agreement is the new Minimed 670g Hybrid Closed Loop System. This sophisticated insulin pump automatically adjusts basal insulin output based on feedback from the integrated CGM sensor. While this pump is a far cry from a true artificial pancreas and still requires patients to carb count and bolus for meals manually, it does provide a level of autoregulation not seen with any other pump system.
The Hybrid Closed Loop System is especially helpful for type 1 diabetics who have struggled to bring their A1Cs down with other methods. Medtronic is even targeting type 2 diabetic members of CDPHP who might benefit from more customizable insulin dosing.
But is guaranteed access to tools like this worth any potential drawbacks this type of partnership can bring?
Diabetic members of CDPHP who choose to take advantage of this new deal can utilize the 670g system to help lower their A1C and avoid dangerous high and low blood sugars. They also have the option to get the older 630g system. While this pump does not include the auto-mode feature, it does have the same Smart Guard technology that stops insulin delivery if blood sugar levels fall below a certain number. This system is less complex and maybe a better option for some patients.
Possible Negatives of Partnership
This partnership on the surface does not give Medtronic exclusive rights to CDPHP members. That means that diabetic members can theoretically still opt for pumps and other management options available from other medical device companies.
We don’t know CDPHP’s coverage plans so we don’t know if any other pumps or CGMs are covered equally by CDPHP.
Exclusive partnerships between medical device companies and insurance providers could cause large shifts in the market and drastically slow down innovation, especially that of smaller companies. While Medtronic has been innovative, very large companies are typically tempted to use their market power to limit competitors.
Risk Assumption by Medtronic
Certain aspects of the partnership encourage CDPHP members and the company itself to use Medtronic over other suppliers.
Medtronic will repay CDPHP for any eligible member using their products who fails to meet certain goals such as A1C and time in range.
That means that the CDPHP insurance group stands to gain by encouraging members to use Medtronic products.
- If the member fails to meet health goals, Medtronic will pay CDPHP back for the devices they bought.
- If the member meets these goals, CDPHP still wins as the member’s improved diabetes management means fewer complications and less money spent down the road.
Of the near 250 members engaged in the program, CDPHP has seen a $327 per member, per month savings. This is primarily the result of decreased ER/inpatient hospitalizations.” said Ali Skinner, Vice President, Communications Strategy at CDPHP
Medtronic Inner Circle
Medtronic seems to understand that great tech alone isn’t enough to help everyone achieve their health goals. One of the most difficult aspects of living with a chronic disease is finding the mental strength to fight for better health day after day.
Medtronic hopes to provide mental health support to members of CDPHP and others in the diabetic community is through its engagement program, Inner Circle.
This gamified app is meant to encourage and motivate people living with diabetes to strive for better outcomes. The program utilizes gaming techniques such as personalized challenges and open forums that allow members to engage and challenge one another. Users can also track their progress and receive tips on how to take better care of themselves.
Looking to the Future
This isn’t the first time Medtronic has partnered with others in the healthcare industry to try and elevate the world of diabetes care. Some of their previous partnerships have included the Medical University of South Carolina, Kootenai Health, and the Lehigh Valley Health Network.
Medtronic intends to create more partnerships like the one they created with CDPHP.
Medtronic is using its balance sheet to take performance risk on the efficacy of its technology.
The optimal situation for diabetic members on any insurance plan is one that allows access to all management options regardless of the company. We should be pursuing policies and programs that make these benefits available to all, regardless of insurance, device manufacturer, location, or income.