February 20, 2019
By Gary VandenBergh

The integration of technology into diabetes care is probably one of the most important advances since Fredrick Banting and Charles Best discovered insulin in the early 1920s. From the science behind insulin’s discovery to glucometers, insulin pumps, continuous glucose monitors and A1c meters, technology is simply just a part of successful diabetes management. The integration is so complete that we tend to take it for granted as far as the management of diabetes goes. It is, however, at diagnosis where technology can have the greatest impact and long term influence. Make no mistake that when technology is introduced at diagnosis it provides a comprehensive understanding of the disease. Patients fare much better in the long run and diabetes is a long game.

A diabetes diagnosis is a traumatic event. Patients receiving this news are often overwhelmed with the impact that a diabetes diagnosis has on their lives. Often a type 2 diabetes diagnosis comes a little later in life after bad health habits have taken root and are the hardest to change. A type 1 diagnosis frequently happens in a younger demographic who may be more resilient and open to the necessary change but are equally overwhelmed. The key word in both of these groups is change. Whether it is type 1 or type 2 a lifestyle and attitude change must occur. How is this accomplished? Using technology from apps for smart phones to videos, podcasts and tracking of data related to diabetes the patient can attain an understanding of what diabetes is, what it does to the body over time and how to delay or eliminate those “over time” complications. Add to the technology a knowledgeable health care team and those are the elements for a successful outcome.

One of the biggest challenges to keeping people with diabetes healthy is patient compliance with, what they perceive as, all the restrictions diabetes imposes on them. Add to that the fact that people with type 2 diabetes, in particular, can function daily with damaging high blood sugars. If a patient doesn’t feel great but also doesn’t feel too bad the, perceived difficult, compliance becomes less of a priority for the patient. However, if a patient can use all the technological tools available to fully understand the damage being done if their disease is not in control, then the fatal heart attack, stroke, loss of limb or any number of other very serious complications, can be avoided. The complications from out of control diabetes cost our society in excess of $300 Billion a year. The economic savings alone from well-informed patients makes disease education paramount for the newly diagnosed. Not to mention that being well-educated has a very positive influence on overall health and therefore leads to a better lifestyle.

Diabetes is a 24/7/365 disease. Integrating diabetes education into our smart technology that many people are immersed in every day anyway, gives us the tools that allow patients access to the data they need on a day-to-day basis.

As technology advances, educational tools like Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality will become the norm in successful patient education. Statistics show that immersive technology has a much more effective impact on patients who have recently been diagnosed with disease than traditional education tools. If a patient can be engaged with technology early they benefit greatly over time. In the meantime, using all the available tools to teach patients early in their diagnosis just how important good diabetes management is to overall health is perhaps the most important medicine of all.

Gary VandenBergh
Executive Director
The Diabetes Project

Gary VandenBergh, a career broadcast television professional, began The Diabetes Project to document his journey through life with type 1 diabetes. Gary is an advocate for tightly managing diabetes while continuing to live an active, full, healthy life. Gary has combined the two things he knows best, television and diabetes, to produce informative, compelling content about successfully managing diabetes.