A Changing Profession

A Changing Profession

Tomorrow Diabetic Investor will be arriving in the beautiful city of San Diego for the American Association of Diabetes Educators (AADE) annual conference. A conference that we love attending as these people are the most dedicated professionals we have come to know. Educators are on the battlefield of diabetes management, often over-worked, under paid and too often underappreciated; these professionals remain ultra-dedicated and passionate about helping patients.

Yet this profession is about to undergo a major transformation, a transformation that will forever change the role of a diabetes educator. Like everything else in this world technology will make this happen. The question is can these professionals adapt and prosper in this new environment or will they resist the change that is headed straight for them?

Educators more than anyone understand that interconnected diabetes management (IDM) is the future of diabetes management. Frankly this is nothing new to seasoned educators who’ve been helping patients download meter readings or helping a patient set up their insulin pump. The big difference between then and now is of course all these way cool whiz bang gadgets which seamlessly transmit data to the cloud which can then be accessed and analyzed by an educator, who in turn can communicate back to the patient using this same way cool whiz bang technology.

However, as we move ever deeper into the IDM pool, some storm clouds loom on the horizon. Using artificial intelligence combined with advanced data analytics, technology can replace what educators used to do and they can do it better, faster and cheaper. The most promising aspect of IDM is the potential for customized or personalized diabetes management. That technology will provide the patient with a management plan that is customized to their unique needs. That diabetes management will no longer be a one-size fits all approach. This is the power of data combined with analytics and algorithms.

But let’s not stop their technology will also change the way a patient is trained to use all this whiz bang way cool cloud enabled devices. It in the not so distant future Diabetic Investor can envision a world with avatars armed with artificial intelligence train patients. Avatars who once built and programmed are … wait for it … cheaper than paying a human.

Sorry to say we aren’t done yet. New therapy options will also change what an educator does. Take for example the exenatide micro-pump from Intarcia Therapeutics which once implanted in the patient works for one year. No fuss and no training either.

Want to dose insulin better? There’s an app for that. Want to know how many carbs are in a Big Mac? There’s an app for that. Want to exercise more effectively? There’s an app for that. Want to understand the possible side effects of the medications a patient is taking? There is app for that too.

We hate to say this but trends are not in favor of educators either, here’s why-

Diabetes continues to grow at epidemic rates or to put it simply there just aren’t enough educators to handle the demand.

Everyone is looking to rein in costs and as we have outlined many of the roles traditionally performed by an educator can be replaced by technology. Technology that does not require reimbursement, health insurance, vacation days, etc.

Patients are embracing technology and becoming more proactive with their diabetes management or put another way they don’t think they need an educator. In the patient’s eyes everything they need is right there on their smartphone.

The reality for educators is they must adapt to this new world. Accept the fact that many of the roles that they used to perform will be replaced by technology. To find ways to enhance this technology not to fight it. To understand that as much they may not like diabetes besides being a chronic disease is also a business and the fundamentals of this business are changing.

The good news here is that while this transformation is underway it is not here yet so the smarter educators have time to adapt. The bad news is the demand for human educators will go the way of elevator operators, telephone operators, bank tellers, toll collectors and typewriter repairmen. All professions which have either been eliminated or dramatically changed by technology.

There is no question this is changing profession and technology will have a major impact on just what an educator actually does in the future. Still we can’t help but respect what these professionals do each and every day. So here’s a huge shout out and thank you to every educator on the planet. Thanks to all of you for your passion and dedication. Or put more simply we love you all.