How the new Level2 program helped a man with diabetes sick with COVID-19

After Jon Alger returned home to New York City from a spring break vacation in early March, he started showing symptoms of the flu; sore throat, fever, headache. He felt awful for two weeks and eventually was able to get tested for COVID-19. His test came back positive for the virus. 

Jon had the added worry of his pre-existing condition, type 2 diabetes, which is a risk factor for COVID-19 complications. The symptoms of COVID-19 also made it more difficult to manage his diabetes, sapping his strength to stay active and eat regularly. 

“I felt awful, had no appetite and had severe fatigue like nothing I had ever experienced before,” Jon said. “I lost 15 pounds.”

Level2 uses mobile continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and shares that data with health professionals, including personal program coaches and physicians. This real-time data stream helps identify and coordinate care for patients with abnormal blood glucose levels, allowing for earlier interventions. Lydia Richardson is Jon’s Level2 program coach who provides him with one-on-one coaching. 

“Our main goal is to empower members through lifestyle changes to eventually wean off the support of the coaches and the technology. We want members to feel confident in managing their type 2 diabetes on their own and can get into a remission state, where their symptoms are reversed and their lives are back under healthy levels,” Lydia said. 

Lydia said she’s noticed that when members can see their glucose numbers and activity patterns on a constant basis, they are more likely to practice better self-care, drink more water, eat better and get proper exercise – overall, they understand their bodies better. 

“The CGM was instrumental,” Jon said. “Since I was not eating well, my readings continuously ran low and that feedback helped encourage me to eat something, even when I had no desire for any food.”

Jon remembers one time when his CGM indicated he should eat something, so he warmed up a bowl of tomato soup. However, after finishing it, his glucose numbers spiked. This confused him because he thought he’d made a healthy choice. 

Lydia helped explain that the tomato soup spiked his blood sugar levels because it’s high in added sugars and carbs. Knowing it’s a comfort to him, she found a way to fit it into his get-well plan by suggesting adding frozen veggies to increase the overall fiber. This helped slow down the absorption of carbs into the blood stream.

His program coach’s tips and the CGM helped Jon take better control of his blood sugar levels and fight off COVID-19. Now that he’s recovered, he’s finding creative ways to add in exercise. 

“He’s even giving me all kinds of ideas like using gallon jugs as weights while he walks around with his Bluetooth while he’s on calls,” Lydia said. “Jon is amazing and I’m so proud of him. He’s worked so hard. By the way, his A1c is down to 6.1 and it’s never been that low.”

More than 230,000 UnitedHealthcare employer-sponsored, fully insured plan participants in 28 states are eligible for Level2, which provides each person at no additional cost a mobile CGM to track blood glucose levels 24/7, an activity tracker to monitor daily movement, and access to a diabetes care management team. To encourage engagement, eligible members may earn financial incentives, including waived copays or certain other costs for medications or primary care visits.1

“Level2 is demonstrating the ability to help flag possible COVID-19 infections and give members with type 2 diabetes access to actionable information, personalized support and meaningful incentives to help them better manage their condition in real time, and address potentially unhealthy behaviors, such as inactivity, lack of sleep and poor medication adherence,” said Dr. Amy Meister, CEO of Level2. “Our goal is to help people take positive steps toward better managing type 2 diabetes or even moving into remission, which may enable them to stop taking medications and live more active, healthy lives.”       

Check with your health plan to see if you are eligible for Level2, which provides each person at no additional cost a mobile CGM to track blood glucose levels 24/7, an activity tracker and access to a diabetes care management team. 

Sign up to get the latest news from the UnitedHealthcare Newsroom