How technology can help millions of diabetes patients

The healthcare policy implications are far reaching, since 84.1 million U.S. adults have pre-diabetes and could benefit from early intervention.

By Mark Ginestro

The diabetes epidemic, which affects 30 million Americans, has generated an array of unmet medical needs that lead to unnecessary hospitalizations and a great deal of upheaval in a patient’s life to manage the condition.  Technology can help change that.

Blood sugar testing, medication regimens, infusion pumps and, hopefully, exercise and careful dieting are all part of a diabetic’s lifestyle.

KPMG is examining how technology can change the lives of millions of diabetes patients in our new paper, titled “Digital health and Disruption in Diabetes.” The healthcare policy implications are far reaching, since 84.1 million U.S. adults have pre-diabetes and could benefit from early intervention. In addition, more than 7 million hospital discharges, including cardiovascular events and lower extremity amputations, were reported in 2014 with diabetes as a diagnosis, according to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.

Patients undergo a journey when they have diabetes and this is a big opportunity for patients, providers and life sciences organizations to use technology for screening, monitoring and managing the condition. Connected devices and apps based upon clinical protocols and a person’s condition measured in real-time can lead to insights about patient behavior, greater communications with doctors and the data to support drug development and detailing. These can be powerful tools to help diabetics live much better lives.

In the midst of newer drugs to simplify medication regimens and improve blood sugar management, the report, which I authored with Angelina Carvajal and Adam Manhi,demonstrates how digital technologies are emerging to improve detection, diagnosis, treatment and self-management for patients.  Life sciences companies have a unique opportunity to either take the lead or partner with technology companies and healthcare providers to create digital health solutions for diabetes patients.

 “Smart pills,” microneedles, contact lens-based monitors and an array of other scanners are under development to move patients away from the pin prick approach to monitoring blood sugar.  When these scanners under development share data with electronic health records or devices to alert patients and physicians about the condition,  it creates an opportunity to act to prevent blood sugar from falling too low (hypoglycemia) or too high (hyperglycemia) – a major medical emergency.

There is a great opportunity to use technology to make care delivery more personalized and more effective. Life sciences organizations need to be alert to emerging technologies that will change how people administer drugs to help address these unmet medical needs that have huge implications upon public health.

Mark Ginestro is a Principal at KPMG Strategy and works primarily with life sciences companies.

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