Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) is gaining ground with both patients and providers because of an array of driving forces, including broadening eligibility, insulin price caps, public awareness, and an increasing number of educational initiatives for doctors.
While professional organizations aim to familiarize doctors, more patients are learning independently that finger sticks may be optional, leading them to request CGM from their provider, according to Neil Skolnik, MD, professor of family and community medicine at Sidney Kimmel Medical College, Philadelphia, and associate director of the family medicine residency program at Abington (Pa.) Hospital–Jefferson Health.
"We in primary care are being shepherded into this space by our patients who have seen an advertisement or talked to a friend about the benefits of CGM, and then asked us to prescribe it," Dr. Skolnik said in an interview.
Systemic factors are also accelerating CGM uptake, he added, highlighting recent Medicare rule changes to expand eligibility, with insurance companies beginning to follow suit.
Warren A. Jones, MD, FAAFP, professor emeritus at the University of Mississippi, Jackson, and past president of the AAFP, said that insulin price regulations have also opened doors to CGM.
"When you had patients trying to determine whether they were going to buy food or pay for high-priced insulin, that was a big challenge," Dr. Jones said in an interview. "But that barrier has recently been removed, so we're at the dawn of a new era."
Like any paradigm shift, however, CGM comes with learning curves for both providers and patients. To help, Dr. Skolnik and Dr. Jones provided highlights from online resources and clinical pearls for getting started with prescribing and advising patients on how to use CGM.
Overview of online resources and navigating coverage
The latest learning resource on CGM for physicians comes from the American Academy of Family Physicians in the form of a new online educational hub with a 2-credit, ACCME-accredited course. It offers comprehensive guidance for employing CGM in daily practice. Topics include both medical and practical considerations, from interpretation of curves and glucose goal-setting to choosing a device and navigating coverage.
The AAFP's new offering joins a growing number of similar educational efforts launched over the past few years by the Association of Diabetes Care & Education Specialists, the American Pharmacists Association, the American Diabetes Association, and the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists.
Checking for coverage is a key first step when considering CGM for a particular patient, Dr. Jones said, noting that CGM, like any new form of care, presents unique challenges with coding and claims that must be overcome to get reimbursed.
"No margin, no mission," Dr. Jones said. "If you are not able to pay your bills, you can't be available for your patients. Our goal at the AAFP is to make sure that physicians get this knowledge [about reimbursement]."
To this end, the AAFP's new online educational hub and the guide provided by APhA present CGM eligibility criteria for various patient groups, including those with Medicare, Medicaid, private insurance, and without coverage.
Medicare criteria include a diagnosis of diabetes, treatment with three or more daily administrations of insulin or continuous infusion via a pump, frequent adjustment to insulin treatment based on glucose readings, and presentation for diabetes in the past 6 months.
Once these requirements are clearly documented in the patient's record, providers need to write the script, complete a certificate of medical necessity, and choose a supplier. Medicare covers CGM as a durable medical equipment benefit instead of a pharmacy benefit, according to the AAFP and APhA.
Exact coverage criteria and reimbursement processes for non-Medicare patients follow similar paths, although details vary by state and insurer, so personalized investigation is required.
When exploring coverage, the AAFP recommends paying attention to information needed for prior authorization, the patient's diabetes type and age, and other medical requirements, such as minimum number of daily finger sticks or insulin doses per day.
Looking ahead, Dr. Jones predicted that authorization obstacles stemming from short-term cost concerns are going to fade as long-term savings are uncovered.
"I think pharmacy benefit managers and payers are going to recognize that we have better patient compliance, and that continuous glucose monitoring is going to bring the cost of care down and decrease the rate of hospitalizations," Dr. Jones said. "So I think they're going to be willing to pay clinicians to engage in this more readily over time."
Patients who fail to qualify for personal CGM can still benefit from professional CGM, in which they borrow necessary equipment on a short-term basis. This avenue typically requires minimal or no insurance authorization. In addition, providers have the "opportunity to cover/exceed expenses by enhancing revenue with separately billable procedures, which can be billed in addition to [evaluation and management] if done on same day," according to the AAFP guide, which goes on to provide appropriate codes.
Learning CGM through first-hand experience
Getting started with CGM can be intimidating for providers, Dr. Skolnik said, although he offered some reassurance, suggesting that the learning process may be more forgiving than prescribing a new drug for the first time.
"I think the best way to figure out CGM is to prescribe it to a couple of patients and learn with them," Dr. Skolnik said. "You can't do that with medicines. With medicines, you need to know what you're doing before you choose who to give a medicine to."
Instead of "reading everything under the sun" about CGM, he recommends starting with several of the ADA's resources focusing on time in range, including an article, webinar, and podcast.
After that, physicians can learn on the job. A beginner's mindset to CGM is well received by patients, he said, especially if you share your natural curiosity with them.
"Share your patients' wonder at what they see," Dr. Skolnik said. "They'll open the app and you'll look at their time and range and together you'll go, ‘Wow, isn't that something? I wonder why?' "
With this approach, providers and patients can join forces to explore trends and troubleshoot anomalous readings.
"Together you'll go: ‘Hmm, I wonder why on Thursday, that graph is looking so far off from the other days? Wow. And then the patient remembers: they ate out on Thursday. They had a big pasta meal, perhaps. Everyone's different in how they respond to different carbs. And you'll both have this epiphany together about: ‘Wow, what I do matters.' And I think that's actually the best way to jump in."
According to the AAFP, ADCES, and APhA resources, providers should first address time below range, as hypoglycemia can be imminently dangerous.
Next, providers should consider time in range, average glucose, and glucose management indicator, the latter of which acts as a surrogate for HbA1c. The first couple weeks of monitoring should be viewed as an information gathering phase, after which specific targets can be addressed through behavioral modifications and insulin adjustments, the AAFP advises.
The ADA guide highlights CGM usage, glucose variability, time in range, time above range, and average glucose as key metrics to monitor and offers corresponding actions when targets are unmet.
Encouraging patients to start CGM
Like providers, patients may also be intimidated by CGM, Dr. Jones said, typically because they don't know how it works, or it seems complicated. Fortunately, he said, these fears are easily overcome when patients learn that they don't need to stick themselves, record any of their readings, or really do anything at all for the first few weeks.
"You don't even worry about it," Dr. Jones tells his patients, who typically feel "more in control and engaged in their own care" after experiencing CGM for themselves.
Dr. Jones speaks from both professional and personal experience. A member of his family recently started CGM after being discharged from the hospital, and the benefits have been significant for everyone involved.
"I see how effectively we can control [my family member's] blood pressure and insulin requirements, as opposed to several months ago when we didn't have it," Dr. Jones said. "So I'm giving it to you from two perspectives: one, of the clinician who knows, intellectually, what should go on, and two, experientially, from a family trying to take care of someone they love."
Dr. Skolnik disclosed relationships with AstraZeneca, Teva, Lilly, Boehringer Ingelheim, Sanofi, GSK, Bayer, Genentech, Abbott, Idorsia, Merck, Novartis, Heartland, and Novo Nordisk. Dr Jones disclosed no relevant conflicts of interest.
This article originally appeared on MDedge.com, part of the Medscape Professional Network.
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Cite this: How To Get Started With Prescribing and Advising Patients on the Use of CGM - Medscape - Feb 21, 2023.