Our current healthcare system is failing people with diabetes. I should know—I was diagnosed with Type 1 in 2013 at age 47.
At the time, I was shocked at how stuck in the past diabetes care was. My doctor gave me a general prescription, a pat on the back, and sent me on my way to figure out this new diagnosis—this new life—on my own. I was terrified and frustrated by the lack of direction and support right off the bat. So, I began searching for help online. I scoured the web for technologies that combined everything that mattered to a person with diabetes—blood glucose checks, medication, food, and exercise—and put it all in one place. I searched for something that would crunch all of my daily diabetes data and help me make sense of it all but found nothing. At the time, there was nothing on the market that gave me full and useful insights into my diabetes.
I quickly realized that all of the energy in healthcare is focused on managing problems and treating symptoms versus preventing them in the first place. Health complications associated with diabetes—heart attacks, blindness, amputations, the list goes on—are seen as unavoidable, and quick fixes (read: prescriptions) are typically the only option to treat the disease. As a result, a reasonably manageable condition ends up killing one person every 6 seconds. Clearly, the needs of a community of nearly 500 million people worldwide are not being met. That’s why I made it my mission to give people the ability to effectively manage, live, and thrive with diabetes through the power of data sharing and self-care all via a smartphone.
But why data sharing? Why self-care? The answer is simple. Because diabetes is a 24/7 job with no vacation time. Unlike some other medical conditions where a doctor does most of the work, the daily tasks of managing diabetes fall directly on the person with diabetes. You must check glucose levels, take medication (including insulin injections), maintain a low-carb, healthy diet, and stay active every single day. The vast majority of diabetes care is self-directed. It happens at home, at work, at school, with the use of glucose monitors, insulin pens/pumps, and now health apps, connected devices, and mobile phones.
Diabetes cannot be successfully self-managed without the help of a lot of data—and that data has to make sense. The 500 million people living with diabetes generate critical data every day that drives how they take care of themselves. This includes counting, calculating, and keeping track of carbohydrates, insulin units, duration and intensity of physical activity, and blood glucose readings. By harnessing this data into an understandable and actionable form via mobile apps and cloud-based computing, people with diabetes can actually make sense of it all. Having the ability to see the contrast in my blood glucose readings at noon compared to 9 p.m., while also comparing physical activity during those times, can give me better insight into what my body requires to function and thrive on a daily basis, for example. Having that personal data on hand better equips people with diabetes to manage their own care. But this isn’t enough.
Giving people full access to everyone’s data in the diabetes community—not just one person—can unlock information that lets anyone and everyone make educated lifestyle and health choices. Sharing data with others who have diabetes (or any long-term, complex condition, for that matter) truly makes an impact—just check out any of the conversations happening online in the diabetes community. The more data we put in, the more we can use it to predict various scenarios, manage our disease, and improve overall health outcomes. We can uncover patterns, trends, and insights that help to encourage others going through the same challenges; we can navigate, together, a full and healthy life with diabetes. It’s no wonder data is the backbone to successful self-care.
Living with diabetes is complicated
Even with all the data sharing and self-care, managing and living with diabetes is complicated. Suddenly, people have to think about things that never crossed their minds before. Every meal presents a new challenge, and without proper direction, it can be completely overwhelming. That’s where mobile technology can step in and help eliminate the barriers between people and their personal health data. Telehealth and mobile health apps can empower people living with these complex conditions through easy-to-use digital tools and platforms. In fact, for people living with diabetes, a recent study shows just that A1c levels were significantly reduced in people with diabetes over a short period of time with the help of these apps and online coaching from experts. This has previously only been achieved with drugs and represents a significant breakthrough for mobile health initiatives, proving that they can deliver effective, affordable, and accessible care to anyone in the world.
As an industry, I believe we are at the leading edge of a major transformation in healthcare: data-driven self-care. This is not just about diabetes; this is about all of us. This is about empowering everyone to take their health into their own hands. This is about bringing chronic disease management into the 21st century. This is about increasing engagement, eliminating stigma, and expanding access to health education and support. This is about changing lives and creating a better future.
Who’s with me?