Big data meets diabetes

Big data meets diabetes

As the conference begins to wind down a hidden story that’s emerging is how data is about to forever change this wacky world. Or put more accurately how data combined with advanced analytics and then predictive analytics will transform the business of diabetes. Up to this point as we move ever closer to interconnected diabetes management (IDM) everyone including Diabetic Investor believed that IDM has the potential to change diabetes management. That ultimately IDM would lead to better patient outcomes. This is still true, however lost in this quest for better patient outcomes is the business case for IDM.

Just by way of example take a look at the newest way cool interconnected device, the “smart” insulin pen. Now everyone assumes that a “smart” pen when combined with a way cool app will help a patient more accurately dose their insulin. That it was possible that the app-pen combo will in essence become a poor man’s insulin pump. That the app would basically be a bolus calculator just like the bolus calculators which are standard on every insulin pump. This functionality won’t change.

Yet think for a minute what a company like Lilly (NYSE:LLY) who has just invested in smart pen maker Companion Medical could do with the data generated this device. They would know for example how much insulin a patient is using and theoretically could ship the patient insulin when needed. Just as companies like Livongo, TelCare and iHealth can send test strips to patients when needed, Lilly could do the same with insulin thus eliminating the need for the patient to make a trip to their local pharmacy.

This data armed with glucose data can also be used to better advise the patient. While this is way off in the future the possibility exists to actually design a personalized dosing algorithm for each patient.

Big data also can make a true closed loop insulin delivery system a very real possibility. While it can’t do anything to make the hardware any better it can dramatically transform the algorithms which power these systems.

Yet the real value in big data is predictive analytics, the ability to know what’s going to happen BEFORE it actually happens. Think for a moment what it would mean if a company knew how to prevent a hypoglycemic event, data combined with analytics with predictive analytics makes this possible. Even better a patient would not have to be a pump patient to benefit from this technology. Armed with enough data and a smart pen the app using predictive analytics could alter dosing recommendations therefore a costly hypoglycemic event.

Think of the advantage this would give a company like Lilly when working with payors. Payors who know that severe hypoglycemic events are not just dangerous but also costly as they typically involve a trip to the emergency room. Think that would help Lilly get better formulary placement?

Thanks to devices we’re learning more and more about glucose values and up until today if the patient wasn’t on a pump there wasn’t information on how glucose were impacted for a patient using an insulin pen. Smart pens change all this.

Yes insulin pumps, especially sensor augmented pumps, are a very effective therapy option. However it is also true insulin pump therapy isn’t for everyone for a wide variety of reasons. Insulin pumps initially gained share because they were patient friendly, easier than using a syringe. Yet a good smart pen could turn insulin delivery upside down and make old-fashioned dumb syringes a thing of the past. Now this won’t happen overnight and Diabetic Investor cannot yet imagine syringes not being used as cost still rules and syringes are cheap. However if any company could prove their systems prevented emergency room visits and/or lead to better outcomes this will change.

Up until now everyone has been focused on collecting data and getting that data to the cloud. Now IDM is evolving as analytics are being applied to the data collected. However even when analytics are applied to the data it only gives a retrospective look at the patient. Predictive analytics will come next a move which will go beyond being transformative more revolutionary.

Anyone who doubts should look at how predictive analytics have transformed other industries. Anyone with a Facebook page should know this as the ads they see aren’t appearing by accident. Nor should anyone whose part of a retail loyalty program be surprised by the offers they receive.  Web sites, retailer’s heck anyone who gathers data can apply analytics and using predictive analytics know with a high degree of certainty know which offers a consumer will respond too.

There is no reason to believe the same thing cannot happen with diabetes. Yes it’s more complex than knowing which movie a person might want to see and this being diabetes there are some things data just doesn’t tell. Yet we have solved the problem of getting the data collected, we are now just beginning to learn what all this data means using analytics. The next step and it’s a BIG one is applying predictive analytics to this data a move which will forever transform diabetes and not just the management of diabetes but the business of diabetes.

Change is coming folks – fasten your seat belts.