3 common pitfalls of diabetes coaching programs

January 2021

The path to improving diabetes benefits for your employees starts with understanding the needs of the people you want to help. It's all too common for a company to invest in costly coaching programs that ultimately fail to meet the needs of their employees with diabetes.

To help spread awareness of proper support for people with the disease, the diabetes experts at Roche Diabetes Care recently sat down with the Society for Human Resource Management for a free webinar, Walk in their Shoes: Diabetes Awareness for Employers. They discussed some of the most important aspects of a successful coaching program, as well as common pitfalls.

Click here to see the full, on-demand diabetes webinar now. As you'll see, there are a few key takeaways from the discussion—three reasons most diabetes coaching programs miss the mark.

Pitfall 1: The focus is on reacting, not acting.

On paper, a diabetes management program sounds simple enough—whenever a person is struggling with controlling their blood sugar levels, the program provides an intervention, essentially coming to the rescue. But the truth is, playing catch-up is never the way to get ahead.

For Jeff Claffey, manager of new business development at Roche Diabetes Care, proactivity is one of the hallmarks of a successful coaching program. Claffey was diagnosed with diabetes at age 20, and staying one step ahead of high and low blood sugar levels has been crucial for his health.

"I play basketball several times a week and I need to know my levels before, during and after every game, so I know if I need a snack to stay in a safe range. Testing my blood sugar is the difference between me being on the court or on the bench."

When a coaching program can reinforce the idea of proactive rather than reactive management, it can help people with diabetes live more fulfilling, productive lives. "I know people with diabetes who avoid physical activity because they're afraid of low blood sugar. That doesn't need to be a worry when you know how to plan ahead, and you have someone making suggestions that help you take charge from the start."

Pitfall 2: Ignoring emotional barriers to diabetes self-care.

It's well known that diabetes is a costly disease to manage, but the burden goes well beyond money. For many people with diabetes, there's hefty emotional baggage, such as public stigma and feelings of inadequacy.

Scott Johnson is a patient success manager for the mySugr diabetes management app. If there's one thing he's learned over 40 years of living with diabetes, it's that a little bit of empathy goes a long way.

"Diabetes is nobody's fault. Despite that, there are a lot of feelings of shame and guilt that come with it. Even trying to manage your blood sugar can feel overwhelming, so emotional support is critical for any program."

A successful coaching program must put empathy first and foremost. People with diabetes often know what they need to do, but need support in actually performing those actions day after day, year after year. They need someone in their corner who understands that it's not always about seeing a target number on your blood glucose meter—it's about finding peace of mind.

Pitfall 3: Lack of personalization.

It's easy to fall into the trap of thinking diabetes management is a one-size-fits-all proposition. But treating every patient with diabetes the same is a recipe for frustration at best, and dangerous outcomes at worst. People with type 1 and type 2 diabetes can require very different treatments, as can people at different stages of their lives, or those with different lifestyles and habits.

Molly Wagman is the head of clinical operations at mySugr. As someone who lives with diabetes every day, she knows the importance of a personalized management plan.

"Ideally, diabetes management would be routine—day in and day out—but that's not always the case. You can't always account for where life takes you. A person's management will change based on what they had for lunch, whether they need to take medicine, if they want to evaluate how a particular therapy worked, if there's a medical emergency…the list goes on."

By treating every case of diabetes as unique, a successful coaching program takes time to develop a personalized plan that has real meaning to a person's life. The outcomes show what a difference this makes.

For more insights and takeaways from our diabetes experts, watch this free, on-demand webinar, Walk in their Shoes: Diabetes Awareness for Employers. Simply sign in to watch the 60-minute discussion at your convenience.

For a diabetes coaching program that recognizes and overcomes these potential pitfalls, find out more about the RocheDiabetes Health Connection. Schedule a quick demo today and see how a personalized, empathetic approach can help your business and your employees become more engaged with good diabetes health.