Diabetes is a global problem, with 422 million sufferers worldwide, including 11.3 percent of the American population. This huge number includes Type 1, Type 2, prediabetic, and undiagnosed patients. Healthcare technology has produced innovations that target each of these groups independently to help with treatment management and monitor ongoing symptoms and complication risks. Regardless of where you are on the diabetes continuum, innovative products exist that can improve your quality of life.
No matter where you are on the diabetes continuum, healthcare technology can help improve your quality of life.
Diabetes patients can benefit from several new technological developments, from monitoring glucose levels to helping adhere to medication schedules.
The use of technology gives diabetes patients a better experience, minimizes the risk of serious complications, and helps improve treatment outcomes.
Self-monitoring with blood glucose meters
Managing blood glucose is critical to prevent symptoms and complications for patients diagnosed with prediabetes, Type 1, or Type 2 diabetes. Self-testing your blood sugar can help detect when the levels are high or low. In addition, it enables you to monitor the impact of diet, exercise, and diabetes medications on your blood glucose and to track whether you’re achieving your overall treatment goals.
Self-monitoring at home is simple with handy kits that include a lancing device, finger strips, and a glucometer that stores readings and reports time-based averages.
Measuring levels with continuous glucose meters (CGMs)
A CGM differs from a blood glucometer in that instead of measuring the glucose in a blood sample, readings come from the interstitial fluid. This is a thin layer of bodily fluid surrounding the cells of tissues beneath the skin. To use a CGM, patients get a sensor implanted just below the skin. The device measures glucose levels at set intervals that can be as often as every five minutes, transmitting the data wirelessly to a monitoring device or smartphone.
Since 2018, patients can get FDA-approved, implantable CGMs they can wear for up to three months. CGMs work for all diabetes patients to track glucose levels and understand how lifestyle and medication affect blood sugar. Moreover, these devices can forewarn patients about potential complications. Most CGMs are highly accurate and help providers identify trends and use patterns for fine-tuning a treatment plan.
Modern insulin delivery
Insulin administration has come a long way since Type 1 diabetes patients had to inject it into their bellies. Automated insulin delivery (AID) systems, insulin pens, and smartphone applications all make receiving insulin much simpler and more convenient.
AID systems have three main components: a controller, a pump mechanism, and a glucose sensor such as a CGM. Many systems are closed-loop methods that detect and predict the effect of meals, exercise, stress, insulin sensitivity, and other conditions. The controller adjusts insulin doses to match your body’s reaction to these events.
Modern insulin pens are reusable injectors that connect to an intuitive smartphone app. The system calculates and tracks insulin doses and delivers helpful alerts, reminders, and reports. For example, pen devices can remember the size of your last dose and delivery time and connect to a smartphone or smartwatch. They can also integrate with diabetes data tracking platforms to calculate dosages based on your blood glucose levels, meals, and other criteria.
Administering other types of diabetes medication
While insulin is the best-known diabetes medication, it’s primarily used for treating Type 1 diabetes. Type 2 diabetics often require other types of oral medication or non-insulin injectables, such as Metformin, various types of inhibitors, and combination therapies. Smart medication dispensers are rapidly replacing the old pill organizers and often come with tamper-proof refills prepared by a pharmacist.
The most sophisticated medication dispensers include remote monitoring capabilities to make sure patients take the correct medications at the right time. The devices register and store vital statistics, notify the pharmacy when medication is running low, and use security protocols like biometric identification for both replenishment and usage.
The systems can notify physicians or other providers if doses are missed and accurately record the consumption of as-needed and over-the-counter medications.
Keeping diabetic foot problems at bay
People with diabetes are vulnerable to a multitude of foot problems caused by neuropathy or nerve damage. This condition causes pain and tingling and can result in the loss of feeling in your feet. Symptoms and complications of diabetic neuropathy include changes in skin temperature and color, swelling in the feet and ankles, toenail fungus, corns, calluses, and dry skin resulting in cracks and bleeding. Patients often develop diabetic foot ulcers (DFUs) that can become infected and are typically slow to heal.
Keep diabetic foot problems at bay with early detection of DFU risk. Research shows that a persistent temperature difference between identical sites on opposite feet for two consecutive days can accurately predict ulcer development. Other products monitor pressure and the amount of time you spend on your feet. Smart insoles that monitor foot temperatures and integrate with smartphone applications can alert you or your provider to the risk of a DFU. An intelligent insole system study showed a 71 percent reduction in ulcer incidence in the active group compared with the control group.
Benefiting from comprehensive remote patient monitoring
Remote patient monitoring is another way diabetes patients can benefit significantly from technology. Most digital monitoring devices gather data that can help providers understand patient needs and the progression of their illnesses. The devices trigger real-time alerts that allow providers to intervene early and prevent the onset of complications. This reduces your risk of a diabetic emergency, improves your treatment outcome, and helps you and your healthcare insurer save money.
Healthcare technology offers diabetes patients a range of convenient ways to manage their treatment and prevent the development of complications. Many of these options are covered by healthcare insurers because they reduce the costs associated with medical emergencies and improve patients’ overall health. Contact your provider to discuss your options and find out what diabetes technology your insurer covers.