Enhancing access and impact of the Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program using telehealth: a narrative review



Document Type

Journal Article

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aged, health services accessibility, Medicare, prediabetic state, Telemedicine


Background and Objective: Over 26 million older adults in the United States (US) have prediabetes, which is often a precursor to type 2 diabetes. The Medicare Diabetes Prevention Program (MDPP) is an evidence-based, lifestyle program for older-adult Medicare beneficiaries to prevent progression to diabetes. However, the MDPP has been drastically underutilized. Telehealth delivery may be a promising strategy to increase the reach and impact of the MDPP, including for underserved populations. The objective of this narrative review is to explore the role of telehealth on the accessibility and effectiveness of diabetes prevention programs (DPPs) for older adults. Methods: We searched the online databases of MEDLINE, APA PsycInfo, CINAHL, and Academic Search Elite for studies that used telehealth to deliver DPPs to older adults through distance learning, i.e., live program delivery where participants join via phone- or video-conferencing. Relevant information from policy documents and related publications was also included. Key Content and Findings: Three themes emerged from the literature on telehealth delivery of DPPs for older adults (I) clinical effectiveness for weight loss, (II) feasibility and acceptability of this format; and (III) policy considerations to support greater public health impact. There is a growing body of recent evidence to suggest that older adults achieve a clinically meaningful amount of weight loss from participation in telehealth DPPs. The literature suggests that telehealth program delivery is feasible, and older adults find it acceptable, with some specific accommodations. Effectiveness and acceptability of telehealth interventions were also noted for older adults from rural, ethnically-diverse, and low-income groups. Policy considerations include adjustments in rulemaking by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to allow MDPP delivery via telehealth using distance learning, along with sufficient reimbursement rates. Conclusions: The evidence indicates that delivery of the MDPP via telehealth is beneficial for increasing program reach and impact, including among underserved groups, as well as providing social support for older participants. Scalable delivery of the MDPP via telehealth is essential to make a national, population-level impact for older adults with prediabetes who receive Medicare benefits.

Open Access