Ibis Can Help – a Member’s Story

November is National Diabetes Month, an effort to raise awareness about an illness that affects roughly 37.3 million Americans, including many Mass Retirees members and our own CEO Shawn Duhamel, who shared his personal fight with the illness during our September annual meeting.

“Not only does this illness run on both sides of my family, but I was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes this past spring. While a serious chronic illness, Type 2 diabetes is manageable and can be controlled through proper treatment, monitoring and, most importantly, self-care. Ongoing monitoring and help with self-care is where Ibis Health, the telehealth services program that we endorse, truly shines. Just ask Charlie Gagnon,” says CEO Shawn Duhamel.

After retiring, Charlie Gagnon and his wife, a retired school teacher, remained active, walking each day, swimming and hiking. But like many, Gagnon struggled with his weight, and about 10-12 years ago, was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. The couple are insured by the state GIC.

His doctor prescribed medications to help manage it, but his A1C — a simple blood test administered every three months to measure average blood sugar levels — continued to climb, topping 8 percent earlier this year. Gagnon’s doctor told him he might need to begin daily insulin shots if he couldn’t get his blood sugar levels under control. Ideally, diabetics need to maintain an A1C lower than 7 percent to avoid complications of the disease, including organ and tissue damage.

Gagnon knew something needed to change. He turned to Ibis Health, a chronic care management program available to Gagnon through a partnership with UniCare, which provides Medicare supplemental insurance to many Mass Retirees members.

Combining round-the-clock AI-powered virtual monitoring with an on-call clinical team support to empower retirees to take control over their chronic health conditions in between doctor visits, Ibis Health is covered by Medicare Part B and all Medicare supplemental plans. Users track weight, diet, exercise and other health indicators through a continuously connected tablet, while member advocates work to personalize the program to their individual needs and goals.

The program is well-suited for the estimated 37.3 million Americans who have diabetes, many of whom need to monitor blood sugar levels daily to effectively manage their disease and prevent complications such as stroke or blindness, said Dr. Karthik Ravindran, an internist who also serves as Senscio Systems’ chief medical director. A pervasive disease that affects almost every part of the body, diabetes can often leave individuals feeling powerless, Ravindran said.

“You have this situation, sugars go up, sugars go down, sometimes you don’t know why and you have to call your doctor,” Ravindran said. “With Ibis Health, you are empowering yourself to put out the fire.”

After joining Ibis Health, Gagnon, who is 71, began tracking his blood sugar levels twice a day, along with his weight and blood pressure. His Ibis Health advocate sent him articles to help him better understand his disease, including how his blood sugar levels might be affected by what he eats and when.

“No one ever told me how to eat,” Gagnon said, noting there are no nutritionists who specialize in diabetes in the area where he lives. Armed with information provided by his member advocate, Gagnon began to make modest, daily changes, limiting sweets and focusing on smaller meals.

“I used to have several sodas during the week; now I’ve cut back to treating myself once a week,” Gagnon said. “I’ve also gotten to the point where I don’t eat as much as I used to. I have one sandwich instead of two. I’ll have one burger instead of two.” Those changes are paying off. His blood sugar levels have stabilized, and his latest A1C dropped by a full point, to around 7. With continued work, he hopes to get it down into the 6s. Gagnon now feels like he has some control over diabetes.

“I’m on the right track, thanks to (Ibis Health’s) coaching and providing the articles,” he said. “I’m not giving up and I’m not ready to be supporting the landscape above my head.”

“Thank you Charlie for telling your story and we wish you well,” Duhamel added, “Ibis Health not only provides peace of mind, but also serves as an early warning device if a downturn in health is
detected. Again, diabetes is a manageable illness, but you have to stay on top of it.”

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