A necessary step

A necessary step

When it comes to the future of diabetes management data will be just as important as which therapy regimen a patient follows or which devices they use. In the future it’s not an overstatement to say that a patient’s smartphone or tablet will become the centerpiece of their diabetes management. While the technology for this interconnected world of diabetes management exists today, the protocol for the handling data does not. As we have noted previously having the technology is one thing protecting the data is different story.

This is why we paid close attention to a press release issued by a company called vitaTrackr, which according to the release; “is a health data marketplace that facilitates the movement of health data from the point at which it is created to qualified destinations that value it. vitaTrackr is an industry-wide utility that benefits all, but advantages no individual sector or entity. The consumer, (data owner) will directly authorize data transfers.”

The release states; “vitaTrackr, Inc., announced today that it has invited a broad cross section of health focused companies across multiple sectors to join it in laying the foundation for data-enabled healthcare.

While moving health data benefits many, the responsibility for it falls to no one. Other industries have facilitators like Sabre for airlines; Visa, STAR, Pulse in financial services; and Amazon, eBay in retail. There is no equivalent in healthcare to facilitate the movement of data. In healthcare, data has been viewed as a competitive advantage with little incentive to share.”

Now Diabetic Investor knows nothing about vitaTrackr but we do share their belief that industry standards are needed if we are to not just share a patient’s data but to protect this data from misuse. The theory that drives the new world of interconnected diabetes management is that patients will not just gather all the data but share it with their healthcare team who in turn will analyze the data making recommendations for better management based on this data. The ultimate goal of course is better overall patient outcomes.

Sharing of data however will go beyond just helping the patient better manage their diabetes; it can also be used to help make a patient’s life easier. Already the TelCare glucose monitor has a feature that reminds the patient they need more test strips which can be shipped to them automatically. Several companies are working on “intelligent or smart insulin pens” which communicate with an app; it’s not a stretch that these apps could automatically refill a patient’s insulin prescription. It’s also well within the realm of possibility that a company like Walgreens using interconnected diabetes management could easily refill scripts and/or help the patient better their diabetes.

Let’s not stop there as in the future Diabetic Investor and many others believe that physicians will be reimbursed not fee for service but based on patient outcomes. Those physicians will be incentivized to help patients achieve better outcomes.  Interconnected diabetes management systems allow data not just to be shared with pharmacists, physicians, Certified Diabetes Educators but also with health insurers.

Yet with all things digital none of this will be possible if there is no data to analyze. While most surveys on the subject indicate that patients are willing to share their personal health information, there have been several notable data breeches which have drawn the attention of privacy advocates.  Think of how shoppers must have felt shopping at Target after they found that the stores credit card system had been hacked. Or think about all the attention given recently to all the spying done by the NSA. The simple fact is while patients seem willing to share data; privacy concerns exist and must be addressed if this interconnected world of diabetes is to become a reality.

Diabetic Investor would also go a step further and we think it’s about time that glucose monitoring companies, insulin pump companies, makers of continuous glucose monitoring systems and insulin pen makers agree to universal standards for data transfer. That we end the days when LifeScan has one protocol for transferring data and Roche has another. This is not just better for the patient it also makes good business sense, especially today with margins coming under increasing pressure. The diabetes device world must move from the days of closed source code to open source code. Such a move would also benefit the patient and their healthcare team as they wouldn’t have to piece together patient data as it would all in one place with a standard format.

There is no question whatsoever that this world of interconnected diabetes management is coming, it’s no longer a matter of it will happen more like when it will happen. The same is true of outcomes based reimbursement; it’s just a matter of time.  Yes it is true that Diabetic Investor has been somewhat skeptical of this new world but that doesn’t mean we don’t see the potential. The problem is one of hype versus reality. The folks developing the tools that will be used in this new world seem to ignore some very real and very high hurdles that must be overcome before we go from concept to actual use. That does not mean that these hurdles cannot be overcome rather this new world won’t be discovered as quickly as people think it will be.

Just as managing diabetes is a complex job with many moving pieces, so too is navigating the waters that will lead to the new world.