Going Digital on World Diabetes Day

Dr Kunal Patel @kunalthedreamer 13 Nov 2018

We are without question, increasingly connected. However, the perception is that we all are, when in fact only approximately 4 billion of us use the internet, leaving a vast digital divide.

Much research including our own has focused on how to overcome this divide, particularly in health care and in areas where diabetes education and management are essential. This includes accredited training such as a PGDip in Diabetes management, particularly for primary care professionals. This is very important, as the majority of all health care issues can be dealt with at the primary care level. Courses such as this offer learning and collaboration at an interprofessional level, within a digital or virtual community of practice. Such communities are needed within the digital space, particularly from an educational point of view but also in terms of encouraging collaboration, mentorship and reducing isolation.

However, education has to be linked to all aspects of diabetes management from a digital perspective. For example, the use of point of care devices that happen to be mobile have been tested in various geographies, including the ongoing development of ‘lab on chip’ technologies for chronic disease management. Reporting of glucose levels, via the phone, desktop and smartwatches is now no longer a new concept as seen with recent publicity in the UK regarding the wearable Freestyle Libre flash glucose monitoring system, but does need to be rigorously tested and systematically reviewed before they become the norm. Additionally, these can only really become part of the daily health routine, if integrated into the systems of primary care. There is no point in having the most innovative technologies if they just become more work and a burden for the health worker delivering your care. Ultimately, these all need training elements around them.

Recent examples of where education around chronic disease and technology is essential include recently published analyses of how elder groups integrate with the digital space, particularly those of ethnic backgrounds who already face disparities in chronic disease incidence, outcomes, and barriers to technology use. This study showed that by having patience and a clearer understanding of those that need help and technology the most, we can overcome such barriers and help with chronic disease.

Therefore, on this day, we do celebrate how we have embraced digital technology for diabetes care. However, we must continue to strive to ensure we are digitally inclusive, especially for those that need the care the most but also for the health workers that need further support and training in chronic disease management.