Diabetes Treatment Hasn’t Changed much in 100 years, but I’m Optimistic We are Entering a New Era of Innovation | Deloitte US has been saved
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By Christine Chang, manager, Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Deloitte Services LP
I was seven months pregnant when my two-year-old son was diagnosed with Type-1 diabetes. It was his first day of pre-school…and it also wound up being his first trip to the emergency room. Over the past year, our whole family has learned how challenging it can be to manage this chronic condition. However, we are optimistic that diabetes and other chronic diseases will become more manageable as we move closer to the Future of HealthTM.
About 60% of American adults have at least one chronic disease (e.g., heart disease, asthma, cancer, diabetes), and the number of people who have a chronic illness has been rising steadily for years.1 As someone who has spent a career tracking health care issues, I was caught off guard when I realized how little I knew about managing diabetes. Blood-sugar levels, for example, have to be tracked throughout the day—and at night—through finger pricks (something little boys try hard to avoid). In addition, there is more than one type of insulin needed each day, and the doses vary based on blood-sugar levels and upcoming meals. All of this was overwhelming initially, but it is getting a little easier to manage.
The Future of Health and chronic disease
We are entering an era of innovation that could change the way people prevent, detect, and manage chronic illnesses. Artificial intelligence (AI), always-on sensors, and real-time micro-interventions are part of the Future of Health that we expect will emerge over the next 20 years. My son’s endocrinologist recently told me that now might be the “best time to be diabetic” in terms of emerging technologies. Here’s a look at how technology could change how we manage diabetes and other chronic diseases:
Type 1 diabetes is a do-it-yourself (DIY) disease. Everyone reacts differently to foods and insulin, which means diabetes management has to be personalized. People who have diabetes often learn how to manage their conditions from others who have the disease, in addition to their doctors and nurses. The lived experience is valuable, and the knowledge transfer—with the recognition that not all of it will apply to everyone—has been key for us. Patients should not have to figure this out on their own! Some useful tools have been created by patients and parents of patients. For example, the parent of a child with diabetes created a DIY pump/CGM loop called Riley’s loop. There is also an app called SugarMate that helps monitor blood-sugar levels.
It has been 100 years since the discovery of insulin made it possible for people with diabetes to live long and healthy lives. While the treatment for this disease has changed little over the past century, I am optimistic about the future. There have been so many advancements over the past couple of years that it is hard to imagine what will happen in 10 years, 20 years. I just want it all to come out as soon as possible so my son can spend less time thinking about his diabetes, and more time being a kid.
1. Chronic diseases in America, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January 12, 2021
2. The history of a wonderful thing we call insulin, American Diabetes Association, July 1, 2019
3. Why was inhaled insulin a failure in the market, American Diabetes Association, August 29, 2016
4. Thermalin is developing no-refrigeration insulin and a postage stamp-sized pump, healthline, February 15, 2021
5. How many hormones make an ideal ‘artificial pancreas?’, Medscape, July 1, 2020
6. New Fitbit app update will allow users to track their blood-sugar level, USA Today, February 8, 2021; Two lifesaving features could be coming to smartwatches, Forbes, January 29, 2021
Christine Chang, MPH, is a research manager with the Deloitte Center for Health Solutions, Deloitte Services LP. She conducts primary and secondary research and analysis on emerging trends, challenges, and opportunities within the health care system. She supports Deloitte’s Life Sciences and Health Care practice across all sectors and has written on topics including innovation, value-based care, and emerging technologies.