The third meeting of the City-Labs Talk Series took place on November 22nd, 2018. The event, entitled “Diabetes care in the digital age: accessing innovation & fostering self-care”, was organised by the City-Labs team to discuss the impact of digital solutions on the improvement of diabetes care and how promoting access to these technologies can enhance quality of care.
Diabetes is one of the greater public health threats of our time, affecting over 60 million Europeans (about 10.3% of men and 9.6% of women aged 25 years and over). Diabetes prevalence is increasing among all ages across Europe, killing about 3.4 million people annually. Good management of this condition can save lives, prevent complications and ultimately contain increasing healthcare costs. Patients have been provided with several digital solutions which help them unlock the power to control blood glucose levels, plan nutrition, take medication consistently, work out, and keep track of medical visits, etc. The participants discussed digital technologies and their potential to improve self-care and patient outcomes, as well as the conditiones sine qua non for their uptake, from literacy to access.
As pointed out in the first remarks by Barbara Kerstiens (European Commission), the major challenge to prevent and manage chronic conditions, such as diabetes, is the required change in life style. A drastic shift in daily routine is needed to avoid complications and ensure a good self-care. Also, from the perspective of Directorate-General for Research and Innovation, it is essential to foster research to better understand how diseases are evolving over time and better ways to make diagnosis. On this point, Ms Kerstiens reminded that the proposal for the next research and innovation framework programme, Horizon Europe, shall allocate under the cluster health over 7 billion’s budget to foster health throughout the life course, non-communicable and rare diseases and digital technologies for healthcare.
Ignacio Garamendi from the International Diabetes Federation, together with the young advocate Ewout Gubbels, brought the patients perspective to the discussion. As consumers, we are free to make our own choices (being their healthy ones or not) and it has become complicated to encourage citizens to improve their life style and better manage their condition(s). In his remarks, Mr Garamendi identified three key policy actions that all the stakeholder involved must consider: (1) fostering the uptake of digital innovation, (2) promoting digital literacy as well as (3) encouraging patient engagement.
Ewout Gubbels added “being a diabetic patient is a full-time job”, which require good organisation and commitment. Digital tools (from wearable solutions to keep track of their blood glucose to mobile apps for physical activity) can help patients to build a new routine and prevent complications, but sometimes the flow of information can be overwhelming (in some cases not enough accurate information can also be detrimental). To avoid confusion and frustration, digital solution’s providers must guarantee the accuracy of the shared data.
Thanks to the inputs of Tanja Valentin, from MedTech Europe, the participants also discussed how assessing the value of innovative technologies in diabetes care. There is a wide scope of e-products, which makes necessary to assess which technologies fit the purpose and can bring real benefits to the patients. The missing piece of the puzzle is a new value-based model to measure outcome and to understand how to better value innovative solutions. For doing so, we need to know the cost of any intervention, the benefit of treatment, and the role played by each component of the care pathway.
The meeting saw the contribution of Guillaume Gustin, representing of City-labs team, who presented EGLE app. Throughout constant monitoring and connection with your doctor, the app aims at bridging the gap between patients and clinical labs, which is specifically needed for chronic disease patients given the regularity of their checks. He stressed that a daily monitoring is essential to avoid complications and ensure a better quality of life. He stated that, due to the growing healthcare demand, “physicians lack of time and we also lack of physicians”. Mobile solutions have the potential to tackle these deficiencies through improving self-care and access to health data. To make this possible, literacy and acceptance shall be enhanced.
Diabetes presents a substantial and complex challenge. The technological revolution on the horizon can help patients and providers to face all of its complexities. But solutions need to be assessed stressing the patients’ outcome. A takeaway of the discussion is the need to find a ground-breaking formula on value-based healthcare which can transform care, starting with diabetes.
Please click here to see the pictures of the event.
City-Labs is a project financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) which aims to integrating the innovation of laboratory medicine and mobile health. The scope of the project is to facilitate access to laboratory tests as part of a collaborative approach to ambulatory care of a chronically ill individual, as well as to contribute to the dynamic monitoring of patients with chronic diseases.