This article first appeared in the Autumn 2016 issue of The Record.
A Diabetic Medicine report predicts that by 2035, the NHS in the UK will spend around £16.9 billion treating diabetic patients every year. Meanwhile, an Impact Diabetes study suggests that the cost of treating diabetes complications – such as blindness, kidney failure and limb amputation – is to hit £13.5 billion by 2035.
“Diabetes is the leading cause of many health issues and we know that if you manage those, your risk of complications is reduced,” says Sandra Tweddell, coordinator of Bristol Diabetes Support Network. “I’ve lived with diabetes for 55 years and it involves making daily decisions about your food, the amount of insulin you inject and exercise levels. It’s like walking a tightrope.”
In an effort to reduce these costs and improve quality of life for patients, the West of England Academic Health Science Network has joined with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) and a number of partners to develop the Digital Diabetes Coach.
The internet of things solution leverages Microsoft’s Azure platform and Windows 10, which will empower patients with Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes to self-manage their condition using integrated sensors, wearables and online apps. The solution leverages Microsoft Azure’s machine learning and predictive analytics to help clinicians monitor real-time data and make early interventions for at-risk patients.
Diabetes Digital Coach will be piloted by 12,000 patients in West England.
“We’ve talked a lot to people with diabetes and they have helped us to shape this vision, which is really about making it easier for them to manage their condition in a way that suits them,” explains Elizabeth Dymond, deputy director of enterprise at West of England Academic Health Science Network.
Patients use the Digital Diabetes Coach to track and manage their condition, analyse patterns in their data and can also share information with clinicians or their consultant.
“You need to know as much information as possible to maintain a balance and what the coach will do is provide digital technology to enable you to see exactly what’s happening and take action,” says Tweddell. “The potential for me to send data to my consultant who can see it on a screen and e-mail me if she can spot a pattern is really exciting. The aim is that people will be self-managing, living normal lives, understanding the condition and hopefully 10 years down the line, they will still be fit and healthy without going blind or losing a limb. It’s a huge challenge, but one that is quite exciting.”
Early predictions suggest that projects like the Diabetes Digital Coach may save the NHS up to £4,000 per patient, per year.
“This new way of working is going to mean we can deliver healthcare services in a more efficient way,” comments Dymond. “If we prove this model works well in diabetes, it’s the sort of model we can extend to other long-term medical conditions.”
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