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Digital Health Q1 2022

How new technology is helping to improve management of diabetes care

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Dr Waqas Tahir 

GP Partner, Affinity Care & Diabetes Clinical Lead,
West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership

Hi-tech solutions are helping the NHS work closely with patients to deliver more efficient and effective care for diabetes.

New devices can collect data from patients self-managing their condition, with artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms analysing the gathered information to give clinicians a more precise overview of their patients living with diabetes. Combining face-to-face and virtual consultations with data sharing technology offers healthcare professionals (HCPs) a clearer view, as they assess which patients require closer monitoring and care.

Flash glucose monitoring

Dr Waqas Tahir, a GP partner in a primary care group with 60,000 patients and a diabetes specialist, says the use of technology accelerated during the COVID pandemic, but he remains concerned that thousands of people remain at large with a missed or delayed diagnosis of type 2 diabetes.

Devices help patients interface with HCPs and enable doctors to deliver care more efficiently, underlining the importance of supporting people in self-management of their type 2 diabetes. The different technologies range from the NHS Healthy Living online platform to help people manage their condition, to flash glucose monitoring which uses a sensor attached to the back of the upper arm to monitor glucose information. It can log, measure and store sugar level data and securely forward it via a mobile app to HCPs.

Technology offers healthcare professionals (HCPs) a clearer view, as they assess which patients require closer monitoring and care. 

Diabetes dashboard

Patients measuring sugar levels several times a day generate hundreds of readings for GPs to discuss via teleconsultations. But it is the newer technologies that deliver better insight into glucose patterns, allowing doctors to make better-informed and shared decisions with patients.

That data is taken to a new level by a diabetes dashboard, allowing us to stratify and prioritise patients based on their health needs and successfully support those self-managing their condition. “It gives us a red, amber or green rating and allows us to have an overview and see if a patient is doing well or whether they need to be seen by us,” says Dr Tahir, who is also Clinical Lead for West Yorkshire Health and Care Partnership.

Freeing up capacity

With the dashboard helping prioritise which patients need to be seen more often, it is having benefits for the NHS in terms of efficiency, capacity and resource. “Now, some people are only seen once a year, others twice, and some three times, so we are using that capacity in a different and more effective way,” he added.

Future care

As well as flash glucose monitoring, other technologies include artificial pancreas systems for type 1 diabetes patients and smart insulin pens that record the time and dose of insulin injections. “The next step,” says Dr Tahir, “would be an ecosystem of digitally-enabled diabetes care. These different layers of technology come together to deliver easier self-management, greater support for the individual, better outcomes, improved quality of life and streamlined risk stratification tools.

“Importantly, this technology is increasing the confidence and skills patients have to self-manage their condition while for healthcare professionals, it allows us to focus our resources on the individuals most at need.”

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