María Salido
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Social Diabetes
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Expert Contributor

Technology Is the Best Weapon in Fight Against Chronic Disease

By María Jesús Salido Rojo | Wed, 03/23/2022 - 17:00

The pandemic from which we are emerging has forced us to rethink many processes in many sectors, but especially in the health sector. We would say that we have gained 10 years in the 21st century.

Telemedicine, personalization based on digital data, self-management thanks to medical devices, accuracy and foresight thanks to artificial intelligence ... all of this is driving increasingly evident changes in health ecosystems.

It appears that technology will replace the tedious accessorized processes to clinical care and enable doctors to increasingly prioritize efficient, high-quality clinical services over any other activities (which will be done more and more by machines).

Chronic illnesses will be the Achilles' heel of health services the world over. Diseases like diabetes, which already afflicts 537 million people and is predicted to rise to 643 million by 2030 and 783 million by 2045, caused at least US$966 billion in health expenditure – a 316 percent increase over the last 15 years. (IDF Atlas 2021).

With this outlook, and in anticipation of an ever more complex and unstable world, it is becoming essential that we capitalize on any knowledge, innovation or technology of which we are able to make use in health ecosystems to keep diseases of this type from spiralling out of control.

But adopting any type of technology takes effort and learning curves that come up against the urgency we are facing. This means that our computing capabilities will be for naught if we cannot effectively address the cognitive transition of all the players involved.

We talk a lot about empowering patients by placing them at the center of attention, but for this we need patients to be engaged and to have the ability to take on this leading role in their own health, to improve their knowledge of the diseases from which they suffer, to transform their day-to-day habits, and to understand the potential of the tools at their disposal.

Training patients (and not just medicating them) is an aspect of combined therapy, on which we need to focus far more of our efforts and intelligence than we have done to date.

Upskilling patients must move beyond generating content sent to users through various unidirectional channels. We need to immerse people in learning environments, offering a meaningful link between the knowledge they acquire and their day-to-day problems, and fostering mutual support and collaboration between equals.

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Photo provided by the expert

Some principles and elements of this type of training would be:

Engagement: A gamified interface to improve access and encourage involvement. It requires an accessible system that demonstrably engages and motivates users to learn, understand and adhere to their diabetes treatment plans through effective and scalable rewards.

Personalization: A decision support system that extrapolates health trends to the individual’s needs. The use of digital data can identify patterns in large, population-level datasets and extrapolates these to both the individual level and the community level (to identify clinic-level profiles).

Precision: An educational system embedded in a daily disease management tool. Decision Support and Recommendation Systems have been demonstrated to improve clinical performance in diabetes care and facilitate risk prevention through the detection of early warning signs. Automated screening interventions based on predictive models should be integrated into learning strategies of diabetes management.

Collaboration: A peer-to-peer support network to allow users (and families and friends) to support one another virtually. A crucial issue for many patients with diabetes is accessing sufficient support on a regular basis for effective diabetes self-management. Peer support models seek to build on the strengths, knowledge, and experience that peers can offer each other. They can be a powerful way to help patients with chronic diseases live more successfully with their conditions.

 

“Education is not part of the treatment of Diabetes. It is the treatment.” Dr. Elliot Joslin.

Photo by:   María Salido