IoT in Diabetes Management

Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal, MD & Founder, Diabetacare.The prevalence of diabetes is rising globally. Poorly controlled diabetes is resulting in higher rates of diabetes-related complications and an increase in health care expenditure. There is a need for better diabetes education and management. To overcome the problem, programs like Diabetes Self-Management Education (DSME) training have been developed which help in improving blood sugar control, and thus may reduce long-term complications. However, implementation of these programs is manpower & resource intensive which may not be readily available in all healthcare institutions. This challenge can be countered by using smartphones and internet. A number of mobile applications, Internet portals, and websites based on IoT are available to help patients to improve their diabetes care.

Internet of Things (IoT) is an evolving concept that consists of an ecosystem comprising of automated devices connected to a private or public cloud that captures/monitors data and helps in quick decision making. This intelligent data identification and management system can function in a heterogeneous connectivity environment as well.

The use of IoT enabled devices ranges across multiple sectors like consumer goods, automotive and energy. There has been a high demand for IoT devices in these sectors as they provide a new level of ease, competence and mechanization to report/react to certain things. The healthcare industry which has been closely monitoring the benefits of IoT in these industries, is now adopting the same. Healthcare providers are also working on introducing 360 degree comprehensive healthcare management for enhancing patient care. Tracking health information in real time via IoT enabled devices is vital for the healthcare institutions to provide prompt intervention to their patients. Further, this creates an opening for smart devices to capture, analyze and share patient data, thereby reducing the requirement for face to face patient-physician interaction.

IoT has abundant uses in healthcare that range from medical device unification to remote patient monitoring and smart devices.
It has the potential to not only keep patients healthy and safe, but to improve how physicians provide medical care as well. IoT in healthcare can also increase patient commitment and satisfaction by allowing patients to spend more time interacting with their doctors at the click of a button. It also helps healthcare professionals to monitor patients more effectively and use this data to determine patient care plan and prioritize treatment for the patient accordingly.

IoT enabled ecosystems are automated and have the capacity to intelligently create alerts and detect the onset of a wide range of health issues.

Holistic diabetes management at patient’s home, is a challenging task as many factors may impact a patient’s blood sugar level. Factors such as stress, activity level, diet plan, medication and other illness/treatment may cause unpredictable and potentially dangerous fluctuations in blood sugar level. The three primary factors impacting blood sugar level are medication, diet and activity level. Any change in one of the three would require an adjustment in the other two to ensure that there is no fluctuation in blood sugar level. Patients usually depend on their clinical team to guide them to make appropriate changes. But sometimes these teams would not be available to provide intervention face to face. For this reason, IoT enabled personal devices with in-built clinical decision making have been developed to assist the patient self-manage their diabetes. On one hand, this solution supports patient profile management based on electronic medical records and, on the other hand it provides global connectivity between the patient’s IoT device, doctor’s mobile app to manage personal health cards, nutrition information system and patient’s electronic medical records.

Tele medicine is another big win for remote healthcare – whether that’s before or after a visit to the doctor’s clinic or the hospital. Patients would be allowed to leave hospital/clinic earlier, as doctors/nurses/ diabetes management teams are enabled to monitor them from home rather than keeping them in hospital for observation. Healthcare organizations equipped with IoT enabled devices, aim to prevent or delay the need for costly long-term care for their patients at clinic and help reduce the need for unplanned hospital admissions or doctor visits. The potential with IoT is that throughout the patient care pathway data is continuously being gathered and used to help diagnose the patient so that they can receive the best treatment as quickly as possible.

With IoT in healthcare, the main aim would be to retrieve data and further reduce the margin of error. IoT enabled ecosystems are automated and have the capacity to intelligently create alerts and detect the onset of a wide range of health issues, from high blood pressure to early signs of complications from diabetes. Hereafter, emergency admissions in hospitals can be reduced with proper health systems in place to address the problem before it becomes unmanageable.

Some diabetes management centers have already designed a remote healthcare delivery system, so that patient can avail services from healthcare specialists around the world, at the comfort of their home. The advancement of IoT and apps in the field of healthcare has a huge potential if the providers can ensure adherence and adoption at the clinician and patient level.