According to Søren Smed Østergaard, Vice President, Digital Health of Novo Nordisk, the most significant innovations in the diabetes space centered around hardware, artificial intelligence (AI) and data. He believes that having access to more accurate data on individual behavior and medication usage could positively impact people living with diabetes.
“We know there is a huge discrepancy between how people should use medication and how they’re using it,” said Østergaard. “In 2003, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said improving medication adherence will have a more significant impact on the population’s health than improvements to specific medical treatments.
“With new digital health devices, we will be able to get accurate data on how people are taking their medication,” added Østergaard.
“Healthcare data today is often incomplete and too sparse to use for effective decision-making; we need to solve that first, but with this comes a plethora of ethical implications,” said Østergaard. “People must have confidence that their data is being kept secure and used responsibly. Data sharing – creating a complete picture using data from different parties and devices – has the potential to revolutionize healthcare and outcomes, but robust data privacy policies must underpin it.
Østergaard believes that hardware innovations are starting to make more accurate data collection possible, with technology that fits more comfortably into everyday lives while requiring minimal intervention.
German health-tech device start-up, DiaMonTech recently announced a new diabetic device that monitors blood glucose levels using a low power MIR (mid-infrared spectroscopy and photothermal detection) laser that penetrates the skin to measure the amount of glucose molecules directly through the skin.
The company claims that their new non-invasive blood glucose analysis is comparable in accuracy to finger pricking devices with strips. The company’s device is currently under Federal Drug Administration (FDA) review with plans to be on the market in 2022.
Anders Dyhr Toft, Corporate Vice President, Commercial Innovation at Novo Nordisk believes that hardware, data and artificial intelligence (AI) working in tandem can have a powerful impact on people’s health but that digital health ecosystems that leverage all three are still in their infancy.
“For example, an AI-enabled health coach could benefit people with chronic diseases, like diabetes, that require regular, long-term care. Today, such coaching requires a healthcare professional sitting down and speaking to patients,” said Toft. “But in a post-COVID world where physicians will increasingly treat patients remotely, an automatic coach could provide a convenient option for those unable to attend regular in-person sessions.
“AI is only as good as the data it relies on and, up until now, that data has been poor,” added Toft.
Bio Conscious, a Vancouver-based health tech company, create an AI-powered diabetes management app for people with type I and type II diabetes – Diabits. The app uses data from continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) and user input to create personalized patient models and predicts future glycemic fluctuations.
A recent study in the JMIR Academic Journal showed that for days with ten or more Diabits sessions on the app, the average blood glucose decreased while the time in a healthy glucose range increased to 74.28%,
According to Amir Hayeri, CEO of Bio Conscious, increasing time spent within a healthy glucose range is associated with decreased risk of hypertension, cardiovascular disease, chronic kidney disease, and other major health complications that people with diabetes face age.
“We know that improving medication adherence has a significant positive impact on health,” said Østergaard. “That’s why tracking accurate, credible, complete data on people’s daily medicine use and habits is so important. But this continues to be one of the biggest challenges facing healthcare today.”
Østergaard believes this challenge lies in the convenience factor to the user.
“It must function in the background of people’s lives, ensuring an effortless, seamless experience. This is especially important because the benefit comes not from a few days of data collection but through recording over time, which is when patterns start to emerge,” said Østergaard. “Digital solutions shouldn’t add another layer of complexity to people’s daily lives to achieve this.”
Østergaard says that digital health will bring an end to generalized treatment decisions based on people’s projected behavior or on what a person reports themselves. “Instead, treatments will be based on objective, factual information about an individual’s behavior and their health outcomes, resulting in more effective treatments.”