How digital can help fight diabetes
You may not know it, but diabetes is now the fastest growing disease in the world.
Today, 366 million people are living with diabetes. This is likely to rise to 552 million by 2030, mainly type 2 diabetes. That equates to about three new cases every 10 seconds or roughly 10 million a year.
Asia is the world’s fastest growing region for new diabetic patients, with the low and middle-income countries the hardest hit. This surge in diabetes cases in Asia is the consequence of rapid economic growth, rising urban populations, dietary changes, and a more sedentary lifestyle.
China – now leading the world in diabetics
China recently overtook India as the diabetes capital of the world, with about 95 million cases of type 2 diabetes in 2010, 52 million of these found in rural areas.
If we don’t rapidly change our lifestyle and the way diabetes is currently managed, Asia’s escalating diabetes epidemic could dramatically affect the economic gains made in recent decades.
The role of diabetes patients in their own treatment
The challenge is that most patients don’t realize that they have an important role to play in their own medical care. Drugs alone can’t manage their condition; they have to put a lot of effort into changing their lives before the health consequences become irreversible or even life threatening.
Every day, patients need to measure their blood glucose level with a glucometer. Self-monitoring is crucial for patients to take better control of their diabetes. The glucometer device slowly becomes part of their life and gives them and their doctors an indication of the stage of their diabetes.
However, the reading on their glucometer can also be an indicator of bad eating behaviour and a lack of effort in managing their condition. It’s also a reminder of their disease that they have to carry with them every day, wherever they go. Patients also complain that glucometers can be inaccurate, are inconvenient to carry, painful, costly and too complicated to use.
Doctors feel frustrated because they know that patients are not listening to their recommendations in terms of making lifestyle changes and monitoring their glucose levels. Doctors feel helpless to manage a condition where patients deny being sick because they don’t have any symptoms yet. It’s almost as if patients feel that only their doctors think they have diabetes.
The role of digital in managing diabetes
So how can patients be motivated and inspired to take better control of their condition? How can they make glucose monitoring part of their daily routine and enhance their communication with their doctors? The answer is to do it digitally.
Diabetes recently saw a new generation of glucose monitoring systems offering more innovative technologies to enhance patients’ compliance and monitoring but also to facilitate the relationship between doctors and patients.
For a start, how about transforming a bulky glucometer into a thumbdrive? Bayer’s Contour USB is the first blood glucometer that plugs directly into a computer, providing diabetes patients and doctors with all the information they need to manage their diabetes better.
Or what about making glucose monitoring more fun? Bayer’s Didget has a new diabetic monitoring system that can be plugged into a Nintendo DS. The device helps patients with diabetes to monitor their blood glucose in a more engaging and entertaining way. The system rewards patients for regularly checking their blood glucose and achieving the goals set by their doctors, enabling patients to unlock new gaming levels.
Managing diabetes by phone
Smartphones can also help to improve diabetes monitoring. There are many apps available that allow patients to send their glucose readings and a message about how they’re feeling to their family – and also to their doctors. The Glucose Reader app also includes recommendations about meals and information to better overcome the daily burden of diabetes.
In the near future, patients may even be able to monitor their glucose while they’re driving. The M-Powered concept car from Medtronic would allow a person with a continuous glucose monitor device to receive readings of their blood sugar through both audio and visual cues from the car’s dashboard.
Diabetes may not be about to go away, but with the help of digital devices, it can at least become easier to manage, and the lives of those with diabetes can be improved immeasurably.