A report on diabetes care titled ‘A Vision for Digitally Enabled Diabetes Care in Europe’ has been published by MedTech Europe. The authors of the text are John J. Nolan, Adjunct Professor, Department of Clinical Medicine, Trinity College Dublin and Tanja Valentin, Director of External Affairs, MedTech Europe. The text includes views from critical stakeholders within the diabetes and wider healthcare community. Around 60 million people with diabetes live in the European Region and their healthcare systems need to adapt and remodel to address the growing threats to social, personal and economic wellbeing.
The paper highlights the benefits of a transformation of digital approaches to diabetes care. Systems which are empowered through innovation and tailored design can lead to managing costs, improved quality of care for diabetes patients, reduce geographical barriers to this care and foster industry collaboration between key industry players to develop products and solutions for diabetes care. A wide range of key professionals were interview for the paper, in an effort to formulate a concrete vision for diabetes care in 2030.
Through COVID-19, the adoption of telemedicine and digital health solutions have been spotlighted as part of a new, high-quality standard of care, complementing, and ensuring linkage to essential services that still need physical interaction. It’s important that this opportunity is seized to adapt healthcare approaches to a more digitally-focussed methodology, something that health professionals have shown great support for, especially in COVID times. Priorities that emerged from the interviews show consistent themes such as:
- COVID-19 has highlighted the risks of diabetes to the wider public.
- The growing understanding of the genetic and underlying physiological bases of different forms of diabetes is leading to the need for a more personalised care approach as diabetes is linked to an array of individual-specific factors.
- The current system, where less than 0.1% of patient time is spent with a specialist is not sufficient.
- Most routine care (80% of episodes) could be handled through telemedicine in future.
- Social factors will continue to put diabetes patients at risk through a lack of digital literacy or health literacy unless this is challenged.
Some people struggle to even complete a telephone call, this signals the need for facilitating accessible technology for patients and at-risk individuals. Another future trend is based around the expanding field of artificial intelligence (AI), which is useful for identifying patient sub-groups, and greater use of individual parameters.
Challenges of digitalising diabetes care could include costs, data security and educational inequality. These will be key priorities to act upon in the diabetes and wider healthcare community. Digital regulations need to ensure legal clarity for all actors, and avoid overlap with existing legislation, such as the new regulatory frameworks for medical devices and in vitro diagnostics or the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) rules, which already include key elements of regulating ‘digital elements’.
Principal recommendations of the paper include the validation of telemedicine in every day care, to engage with diabetes at the forefront of policy and service development and to clearly articulate the case with policymakers for future diabetes care, based on data, outcomes (rather than process) and value.
Please access the entire paper here.