While the pandemic has slowed, there appears to be no end in sight to the diabetes epidemic. The number of individuals diagnosed is projected to keep growing over the next decade. What’s more concerning is that 75% of patients don’t meet guideline-based goals for A1C, blood pressure, and cholesterol control. Uncontrolled diabetes can lead to serious complications like heart disease, kidney failure, blindness, and even amputations.
Thankfully, more patients are embracing technology-based programs that provide education and engagement to help improve diabetes outcomes, such as better understanding the importance of regular blood glucose monitoring and how to interpret key metrics like hemoglobin A1c. Adding the ability to remotely share that information with their healthcare providers in between doctor’s visits ensures that appropriate actions can be taken to achieve the best possible outcomes, as well as minimize or prevent comorbidities.
Diabetes: A Growing Epidemic and Historically Self-Managed Disease
Both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes are becoming more prevalent in our country. In fact, projections note that diagnoses of diabetes will increase by 54% by 2030, impacting nearly 55 million Americans. During this same time, the death rate is expected to grow by 38%, while medical and societal costs related to the disease will hit $622 billion annually.
Today, more than 11% of the U.S. population – more than 37 million people – live with diabetes. There are more individuals who are on the cusp of being diagnosed, with estimates of about 38% of the population of those 18 or older having pre-diabetes.
When individuals are diagnosed with diabetes, their primary care provider or endocrinologist becomes the quarterback of their care team. They help oversee treatment plans and provide the education patients need to take an active role in controlling their health through self-monitoring.
However the responsibility of day-to-day monitoring and self-management still falls largely on the individual. Rather than empowering them to take control over their health, patients report self-tracking is a burden, laden with daily finger sticks and calculations of what and when to eat, and how much insulin they may need. One study even found that self-tracking can negatively impact the mental health of diabetes patients, lowering self-esteem and increasing incidences of other health problems like anxiety and depression.
Relatively new remote patient monitoring devices are changing that equation for people with diabetes, making it easier to monitor and manage their blood glucose between doctors’ visits. Wearable technology, like continuous glucose monitors, eliminates the need for frequent finger sticks. Connected blood glucose monitors and blood pressure cuffs simplify these frequent tests by automatically sharing information with healthcare providers for oversight and feedback. Smart insulin pens, connected with smartphone apps and blood glucose monitors, automatically calculate and track doses and provide patients with necessary reminders and alerts.
A Deeper Patient-Provider Connection through Remote Patient Technology
While self-tracking can play an important role in the management of diabetes, remote monitoring solutions now on the market present an immense opportunity to dramatically improve patient care. Taking data generated from an individual’s connected devices – a continuous glucose monitor and a blood pressure cuff for instance – and putting it in the context of clinical data from electronic health records (EHRs) can offer a more complete picture of the individual’s health and areas of challenge. By enabling clinicians to virtually follow the patient from the clinic to the home, technology can offer providers new insights into the patient’s condition that drive action and better outcomes.
Bringing continuous, real-time data into the EHRs and making it accessible to the patient’s entire care team, from primary care and endocrinologists to nutritionists and pharmacists, can help the healthcare team make more precise recommendations. Further integration with advanced clinical decision support tools can help providers interpret this daily flow of data and offer even more personalized treatment recommendations.
This deeper integration of technology in the patient-provider relationship can pay valuable dividends in improving health. One study showed that patients who participated in a remote monitoring program and received real-time intervention showed improvements in HbA1c, as well as greater satisfaction with their treatment, compared to more conventional care at a specialty diabetes clinic.
These advances and integration of technologies can extend far beyond the individual level, too. Looking at data across patients, providers can get a better view of where overall gaps in care exist within their community. With this information in hand, healthcare providers can take broader actions to address common factors that are leading to and exacerbating diabetes across their population.
Fostering the tech-enabled partnership between patients and providers is an important step in addressing the epidemic of diabetes and the complications that can occur when it is not properly managed. With actionable information on the individual level, healthcare providers can devise optimal treatment plans for their patients, and gain a better understanding of issues that may influence incidences of diabetes within their community. The insights generated from patient-generated data, combined with clinical decision support tools, have the potential to help millions of patients successfully manage their diabetes, and may reverse the growing epidemic that has been predicted.
About Lucienne Marie
Lucienne Marie Ide, M.D., PH.D., is the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Rimidi, a leading clinical management platform designed to optimize clinical workflows, enhance patient experiences and achieve quality objectives. She brings her diverse experiences in medicine, science, venture capital and technology to bear in leading Rimidi’s strategy and vision. Motivated by the belief that we can do so much better as individuals, in industry and society, Lucie left clinical medicine to join the ranks of healthcare entrepreneurs who are trying to revolutionize an industry.