Charlie Gagnon has always enjoyed being outdoors, exploring new places and going out to eat good food. After retiring as chief financial officer for South Portland-based National Distributors, he and his wife would travel each year to Florida, where they owned a place with access to the warm sea and sand.
They stayed active — Gagnon’s wife, a retired schoolteacher, would average six miles a day walking and Gagnon would do his best to keep up with her. He also liked to swim and hike. But like many, Gagnon struggled with his weight, and about 10-12 years ago, he was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.
His doctor prescribed various 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 heard about the Ibis Health program through his health insurance company, UniCare, and in March decided to give it a try.
A first-of-its-kind chronic care management program from Senscio Systems, Ibis Health combines round-the-clock AI-powered virtual monitoring with on-call clinical team support to empower retirees like Gagnon to take control of their well-being in between visits to their doctor.
Ibis Health members receive a continuously connected tablet known as the IbisHub, that helps them to track weight, diet, exercise and other health indicators, flagging risks for decline before it happens. Member advocates work one-on-one to help personalize the program to users’ individual needs and goals. Covered by Medicare Part B and all Medicare supplemental plans, Ibis Health users have reported a 37 percent decline in hospitalizations.
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 and chronic care specialist who also serves as Senscio Systems’ chief medical director.
Considered the most expensive chronic health condition in the nation, $1 out of every $4 in U.S. health care costs is spent caring for those with diabetes, amounting to roughly $327 billion per year. Adults ages 65 and older account for 61 percent of these costs, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
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. You don’t need the firefighter to put out the fire. You can save yourself without somebody else’s help.”
After joining Ibis Health, Gagnon, who is 71, began tracking his blood sugar levels twice a day, along with his weight and blood pressure, entering the data into his IbisHub tablet. His member advocate, Tawny, also started sending him articles to help him better understand his disease, including how his blood sugar levels might be affected by what he eats and when.
“The issue is, no one ever told me how to eat,” Gagnon said, noting there are no nutritionists who specialize in diabetes near his home in Berwick, Maine. Nor had anyone ever explained to Gagnon what his blood sugar numbers should be — whether it’s first thing in the morning when he hasn’t yet eaten anything or the evening when he’s been eating all day — and how any of it relates to his A1C levels, measured every three months.
Armed with information provided by his member advocate, Gagnon began to make small, daily changes. He started limiting sweets and instead of three large meals a day and lots of snacks, now eats only a very light breakfast, makes lunch his biggest meal of the day, and keeps dinners small.
“I’ve just been eating differently,” Gagnon said. “I used to have several sodas during the week; now I’ve cut back to treating myself once a week. … 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. Everything is in half, so to speak.”
Through Ibis Health, Gagnon also learned about the concept of intuitive eating, which focuses on nurturing the body instead of enforcing diets and limitations. “It makes me the expert of my own body and its hunger signals,” Gagnon said. “It doesn’t impose any guidelines about what to avoid and when to eat.”
The changes Gagnon has made are paying off. His blood sugar levels, which used to swing wildly anywhere between 60 and 340, have stabilized with typical readings of 86 in the mornings and 130 most evenings. And his latest A1C dropped by a full point, to around 7. Gagnon hopes with continued work to get it down into the 6s, maybe even low enough to be able to come off some of the medication he has been taking for the last decade.
Perhaps for the first time, Gagnon said he feels like he has some control over diabetes.
“I’m on the right track, thanks to [Ibis Health’s] coaching and providing the articles,” Gagnon said. “I’m not giving up and I’m not ready to be supporting the landscape above my head.”
This is a true member story, with thanks to Charlie Gagnon for sharing his success on the Ibis Health Program.
To learn more about the Ibis Health Program by Senscio Systems please visit: