The downside to data

The downside to data

As we move ever closer to interconnected diabetes management (IDM) there is one question that has not yet arisen. As valuable as this data is, can there be too much of a good thing? One of the most understood aspect of diabetes management is just how many variables there are which impact outcomes. For years Diabetic Investor has been telling everyone that one of the reasons patients fail to monitor their glucose levels regularly is they don’t understand what the data means.

Now the proponents of IDM will say that this really won’t matter as this role will be filled by the patients’ healthcare team. To a certain extent this is true. However, glucose levels are just one of many factors that impact outcomes. Food intake, exercise, stress and yes even weather are just some of the other factors that impact outcomes. And let’s not forget the important of medication adherence.

Looking into the future Diabetic Investor could envision a scenario where patients would actually rebel from all this coaching. As we have noted many times diabetes management when done properly is 24 hour a day 7 day a week 365 days a year job. This is one of the reasons nearly two-thirds of all patients are not properly controlling their diabetes. Quite frankly diabetes management is a ton of work and the majority of patients are not that actively engaged with their diabetes. That want to live their lives with diabetes not for their diabetes.

This is where Diabetic Investor sees a possible problem with IDM. Yes it’s great to have a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE), nurse or physician as a diabetes coach. Yet it’s another situation when this coach becomes less of a coach and more like big brother. Think about this for a moment. Looking into the future IDM won’t just involve looking at glucose readings. There are already systems in place that monitor weight, how many steps a person takes and integrate with a patients latest blood work. It won’t be long before these systems also integrate the patient’s prescription history.

As we move closer and closer to outcomes based reimbursement, Diabetic Investor can easily see a physician playing the role of an overbearing Jewish mother. Someone who is constantly worried about what someone eats and how they are taking care of themselves. While all this attention might seem great at first, the strong possibility exists that a patient might just say enough is enough, let me live my life as I please. This is the scenario developers of IDM must acknowledge and plan for.

They cannot ignore the emotional impact diabetes has on a patient. They cannot ignore the fact that for the vast majority of patients properly controlling their diabetes is not their top priority. Yes they want to manage their diabetes but they want their diabetes management to fit into their already hectic and crazy lives. They don’t want to be scolded or given guilt when things don’t exactly as planned.  For years the makes of diabetes devices ignored this and only recently have them awakened to the fact that design matters. That making the patient’s life easier is what good design is all about.

There is no question that IDM has the potential to dramatically alter diabetes management for the better. However the developers of this technology must be cognizant of the emotional aspects of diabetes management. If IDM stands any chance at all at entering the mainstream of diabetes management and not just becoming another niche product used by a handful of patients, developers need to pay attention to needs of all patients not just those who are tech savvy.