It’s no secret that diabetes is one of the most difficult and expensive chronic conditions to manage in healthcare. Nearly 30 million Americans have diabetes, which costs an average of $13,700 in medical expenses per patient, per year, according to the most recent study released by the American Diabetes Association (ADA). The medical expenditures of diabetes patients are more than double the costs of someone without the ailment, according to the ADA.
There’s hope that technology will be the answer to the diabetes problem, though experts stress that finding solutions takes more than just creating mobile apps and collecting large amounts of data.
“Technology can lower the barriers between patients and physicians, but we are not there yet,” says Ameet Bhattacharya, director of the healthcare practice for iVEDix, a data, analytics and mobile technology company. “The ultimate goal is to have the technology take a back seat, and bring the patients and clinicians closer together. We need to get to that point.”
Consumer demand for easy to use, minimally-invasive diabetes devices continues to surge as the elderly population grows and more plans and government programs seek to support newly diagnosed patients, according to a May 2016 report by Grand View Research, Inc. The report found that the global diabetes device market could reach $35.5 billion by 2024. Test strips and blood glucose monitoring devices currently make up the largest market share, however new technology that can offer continuous care to patients will be commonplace in the market, according to the report.
Bhattacharya says the future of diabetes technology includes more intelligent data management. “Artificial intelligence becomes more and more valuable to send clinicians appropriate alerts—they won’t be alerted for every event a patient has. Encounter management systems will play a big part so that clinicians are not flooded with data,” he says.
Mobile apps get smarter
Empowering patients to adhere to treatment is the goal for the next generation of mobile apps for diabetes patients. For example, the Sugar.IQ app developed in partnership with Medtronics and IBM Watson technology, makes lifestyle and food suggestions to patients based on data collected from continuous glucose monitoring devices. Eli Lilly recently received FDA clearance for Go Dose, a mobile app for patients and clinicians that allows patients to enter data and receive insulin dosage recommendations. Also, WellDoc received FDA clearance for the non-prescription version of its popular BlueStar mobile app for type 2 diabetes management that will also feature an insulin dosage calculator.
Gaining FDA clearance for these mobile apps has another intention: to make it easier for health plans to adopt them for patient care and engagement. In November 2016, the AMA approved guidance on coverage and payment policies for mobile health technology.
“The new AMA principles aim to foster the integration of digital health innovations into clinical practice by promoting coverage and payment policies that are contingent upon whether mobile health apps and related devices are evidence-based, validated, interoperable and actionable,” Steven J. Stack, M.D, AMA immediate past president, said in a statement.