Diabetes: An Alarming Epidemic
The February issue of H&HN has a great article that frames the issue of diabetes. It also makes the case for innovative applications of technology to improve the health of the rapidly growing number diabetics. Drivers for changing how the health delivery system responds include:
- 26 million Americans have diabetes and the number will soar to approximately half of all Americans by 2020
- Diabetes is responsible for $116 billion in direct medical and $58 billion in indirect costs annually
- Diabetics are at higher risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure than the general populations
- Diabetics can be overwhelmed by the complexity of managing the disease – measuring their blood sugar, changing their diets, watching their weight, and taking insulin or other medications
- Diabetics’ LOS are typically one or two days longer than those of the general inpatient population”>Diabetics are more likely to be readmitted within 30 days of discharge than the general inpatient population
- Demand for diabetes management and outpatient care will increase sharply in coming years
- The demand for care already overwhelms the supply of physicians – 3000 endocrinologists and 150 new ones each year
Many hospitals are developing diabetes centers and management programs that involve teams of physicians, nurses, dietitians, pharmacists and diabetes educators. But, there is a tremendous opportunity to also leverage technology to help enable diabetic patients and their care teams to exchange data easily, as well as, extending access to professionals for patient questions.
Technologies can facilitate the transmission of patient generated data – blood glucose readings directly from their glucose meters – along with blood pressure, weight, vital signs, caloric intake and exercise – to electronic health records. In addition, these tools can also present data in an organized and understandable manner so patients and providers can see patterns. They can also generate alerts to team members when pre-set triggers are reached, necessitating an intervention. And, social media can also facilitate support networks to help patients learn how to live with diabetes without always having to contact their physician.
All it takes to get started is to have a vision and cross-discipline support. Then the work of creating a strategy and roadmap to guide the implementation process can begin.