Healthcare Technology Featured Article

July 16, 2015

Overcoming the National Knowledge Gap: Diabetes and Technology

by Connie Chitwood-Vu

It’s startling that while nearly 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, there is a striking knowledge gap among the general population about the causes, impacts, costs and treatment options for this deadly chronic condition. Consider the fact that 63 percent of people aren’t aware of the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, or even that type 2 diabetes is entirely preventable and curable. A recent National Diabetes Awareness Index examines this gap in general awareness about diabetes among consumers. The results are a prime validation of the need for greater public awareness, advocacy and research in the area.

Fortunately, the digital health movement is on the rise and new technologies will help shift the American mindset to one that is more attuned to the chronic diseases impacting so many Americans. Using data and tools to help educate and aid patients in managing their conditions will result in increased communication and engagement between physicians and patients, a crucial aspect in diabetes education. But before technology like mobile medical apps and other health-measurement devices can make a real impact, a significant amount of education about diseases – like diabetes – and how technology can help manage them must occur. 

What You Don’t Know

Despite diabetes being the seventh deadliest disease in the United States, the index revealed that the knowledge gap is just as dire for those living with diabetes as it is for the general population. In fact, although nearly one in 10 Americans suffers from diabetes, more than half (57 percent) of the U.S. population isn’t aware that it can lead to other major health issues, including kidney failure, lower limb amputation, blindness or even heart disease. While 64 percent of people who know someone with diabetes are unaware of the disease’s “gateway” nature, those living with the disease are none the wiser, underestimating the magnitude of its costs by $195 billion. In 2012 alone, the U.S. spent $245 billion in direct medical costs and reduced productivity.

The numbers are troubling and indicate that the only thing that might be growing faster than increased diabetes rates is the lack of knowledge about the repercussions of the disease. Opening the lines of communication between the patient and physician could enable better health management, and potentially reduce long-term health repercussions and expenses nationwide. Increased communication also leads to increased patient engagement, leading to better outcomes down the line.

New Technology, New Hope

Fortunately, new technology is being used to help transform chronic disease management. Similarly to how people have used FitBit to monitor their fitness, mobile devices are now being used to measure key data points like glucose levels or heart palpitations. The time is ripe; 88 percent of people want access to real-time data when managing their chronic diseases. It’s the first step toward better health management, as patients can easily view key biometrics and habits to reveal patterns that could affect their overall health. It also makes it possible for physicians to create tailored treatments to combat disease and optimize health.

People living with diabetes are particularly ready for the change, as the majority (85 percent) wants to use technology to track their wellness and living habits. And the confidence is there: more than half (52 percent) of Americans report trusting technology to monitor their health, with the number rising to 57 percent when paired with guidance from medical professionals. Beyond trust, however, there’s a clear demand among patients for the benefits of new technology. We found that people living with diabetes are two times more likely to connect with physicians because of health apps – 65 percent of people want doctors to incorporate technology into their health plans and 71 percent report they would use technology to proactively monitor their fitness goals.

In addition, out of all generations polled, millennials trust technology the most while also being the largest group of caregivers (46 percent) to people living with diabetes. Seventy-seven percent of millennials are interested in using technology to track their family’s health and fitness, at least 10 percent more than other generations.

Technology has emerged as the next tool in fitness, but it’s time for it to make a real impact on health. Technology could enable successful adoption of new health management habits that would increase awareness and education and improve outcomes. Imagine technology that creates meaningful data that medical professionals and caregivers could use to provide personalized care to patients in the form of actionable insights. Treatment would no longer be a guessing game, and patients would finally be in the driver’s seat – effectively eliminating the longstanding knowledge gap between patients and their providers.

About the Author: Connie is a Certified Diabetes Educator and serves as Clinical Director of Patient Engagement at Telcare. A sales, clinical and management professional with more than 15 years of clinical and sales experience in the diabetes commercial field, Connie has direct patient experience as a Certified Diabetes Educator as well as industry experience in corporate training, customer call Center training, development of internal and external electronic training and Phase II medical device clinical trials.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino
By TMCnet Special Guest
Connie Chitwood-Vu, Certified Diabetes Educator at Telcare ,

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