This is going to be one hell of a ride

This is going to be one hell of a ride

According to a report posted on Mobile Health; “The third quarter numbers for 2014 are in and digital health funding has risen to over $3 billion, up from the $2.3 billion figure reported at the same time last year. According to a report from digital health incubator Rock Health, total 2014 dollars raised has steadily increased through the third quarter, indicating that digital health funding will continue to rise to meet market demands.”

Another article posted on Regulatory and Compliance states; “Medical device companies sometimes seem as though they’re playing catch-up with high tech when it comes to using wireless communications tools. But there may be a pretty simple reason: “There’s a lot more regulatory approvals required,” says Nicholas Abbondante, chief engineer at Intertek.”

Finally in today’s Wall Street Journal in an article entitled “A Health Check for Wellness Programs” it states “employers are treading carefully when it comes to toughened wellness programs, lawyers and benefits executives say, as two federal lawsuits raise concerns about workers’ privacy and the border between voluntary and compulsory participation.”

While these three areas may not seem related they are and there are broad implications for people with diabetes. Keep in mind that diabetes is almost the perfect chronic disease state for an employer wellness program. There is near universal agreement  on what constitutes good control, this information is easily verifiable and there are numerous studies which note that better control leads to lower healthcare costs and increased productivity. Add in the correlation between obesity and diabetes and employers have even more reasons to implement an employee wellness program.

This is one reason digital health funding is skyrocketing as companies are looking for evermore creative ways to engage the employee, to convert the employee from a passive bystander into an active participant taking control of their health and wellness. This is also the reason employers continue to use incentives as they see incentivies as a proven method to engage the employee.

However as the post in Regulatory and Compliance notes obstacles remain before interconnected diabetes management (IDM) moves into the mainstream. This is also the reason newcomers like Apple and Samsung may be slow to integrate glucose monitoring into future versions of the smartphones. The last thing either company needs is to see their product cycle, which currently runs every 6 months, increase to years as once BGM becomes part of the phone, and it becomes a medical device which means it’s regulated by the FDA which means goodbye to 6 month product cycles.

When it comes to IDM Diabetic Investor sees the glue holding all the elements of IDM together being education. The simple truth is even if a smartphone could measure glucose and then translate that data into actionable information, the patient still wouldn’t perform the action if they don’t understand why they are doing it. Diabetic Investor has seen several approaches to IDM and nearly all forget that people with diabetes are not robots who will follow an instruction without question. These are people who want to live their lives with their diabetes and not for their diabetes. These are people who live busy hectic lives who want to understand the reasons why they are being told to do something.

The issue has always been how to deliver education in a cost effective manner. Sure it would great if people with diabetes worked with a Certified Diabetes Educator (CDE) but that’s not only impractical, the numbers don’t work. There are nearly 15,000 CDE’s and another 15,000 people who will become a CDE. Compare that to 28 million patients with diabetes and another 60 to 80 million with pre-diabetes.

According to a study published in Diabetes Technology & Therapeutics; “Internet-delivered diabetes education has the added benefit of easier access for many individuals, and patients can self-pace themselves through materials.” Diabetic Investor encourages everyone to pay close attention to the last part of that statement – “patients can self-pace themselves through materials.” Too often internet based education programs overwhelm the patient, instead of being designed for patients they are designed by clinicians. The simple fact is adults learn differently than children and far too often these differences aren’t taken into account with many internet based education programs.

It’s becoming clearer by the day that IDM is moving closer and closer to becoming a reality. It’s equally true that the technology exists today to make this a reality. However, there are still many obstacles before IDM becomes commonplace. Yet, overlooked is the critical role education plays in making IDM effective. We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again data by itself will not improve patient outcomes, that data combined with education leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to action. The winner in the IDM race will be any company that combines technology, incentives and education into one simple patient friendly platform.