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What’s the Future of Digital Health in Diabetes?

By Emma Ryan

Kelly Close and Adam Brown lead expert panel discussion at The diaTribe Foundation’s second annual diabetes digital health gathering at ADA 2017

At the 77th American Diabetes Association Scientific Sessions in San Diego, The diaTribe Foundation hosted the second annual gathering of “Musings Under the Moon,” focused on digital health and diabetes technology. Kelly Close, Founder of The diaTribe Foundation, and Adam Brown, Senior Editor and columnist at diaTribe, co-moderated the evening’s thought-provoking panelists:

The expert panel shared valuable insights on everything from improving the affordability of diabetes technology to the future of apps, CGM, insulin dosing advice, connected pens, and more.

Both Mr. Sayer and Dr. Wolpert emphasized that CGM is really coming of age, even though it is still only reaching a small fraction of those who might benefit it. Affordability and design simplicity will hopefully change this in the coming years.

Indeed, a major theme of this panel was access, as all panelists highlighted the need for less expensive diabetes technology. Said Mr. Sayer, “Customers are increasingly becoming the people who pay the bills.”

Meanwhile, multiple panelists shared enthusiasm for smart, connected diabetes devices, especially insulin pens. Mr. Brewer highlighted Bigfoot’s acquisition of Timesulin, an important step announced earlier in the week designed to improve insulin dosing in those not on pumps. This idea of “decision support” – e.g., “Tell me how much insulin I should take” – received enormous praise, particularly from Dr. Wolpert, the lone physician on stage.

At a higher level, Mr. Valencia and Mr. Brewer pointed to smartphones as game changers in diabetes – so many people in the world have and use them as “the remote control of [their] lives.” Partnership will be key, however, since no single company can tackle all the pieces on its own.

On user experience, many speakers (particularly Mr. Brewer) emphasized that a “consumer” approach is desperately needed in diabetes, where people have fewer things to do, less to think about, and the products simply work as expected.

See some of our favorite quotes below!

Quotable Quotes

On Access

  • “If it doesn’t work for insurers, it’s not going to work for anyone. So, I’m going to make it work for them – focus on outcomes that meet their timelines.” – Jeffrey Brewer (Bigfoot Biomedical)
  • “From a patient perspective, everyone is an individual. You can’t classify all of them together. We try to imagine people from all walks of life who have the burden of managing their diabetes, many who are very different from the people in this room. That’s most likely the patient we’re trying to reach – how do we bring tech to the masses and make it affordable and accessible?” – Ryan Lakin (BD)
  • “We like to think that we spend a lot of our efforts at Abbott trying to take cost out of the system. Where do you prioritize the dollars spent so they improve outcomes across the world and not just in small wealthy populations?” – Jared Watkin (Abbott)

On What’s New and Exciting In Diabetes Tech

  • “We’ve said for a long time that CGM should be the standard of care, and it appears that that’s not a dream anymore. It’s happening. Patients, clinicians, and insurers are all moving in the right direction, though we’d like to move them a little faster.” – Kevin Sayer (Dexcom)
  • What I’m excited about is CGM is coming of age, connected devices, and cloud computing – we have the potential to change diabetes care.” – Howard Wolpert (Lilly Cambridge Innovation Center)
  • “…the outcome improvements you’ll get from smart pens and artificial intelligence [will provide] the biggest difference across the ballfield that you’ll see in next few years.” – Jared Watkin (Abbott)
  • “The ice is breaking – FDA, insurers, clinicians used to be getting in each other’s way – it’s not true anymore. People are open for change. I’m excited. In change, when assumptions and constraints are let down, you can do amazing things.” – Jeffrey Brewer (Bigfoot Biomedical)
  • “Who in the room doesn’t have a smartphone? This has become the remote control of our lives, if you need to hail a car, order food, calculate a bill, get a date. The phone and the connected things around us should also be the remote control of our health and help us better manage the conditions we have, get diagnosed faster and better, get well, and have a better quality of life.” – Rick Valencia (Qualcomm Life)
  •  “We carry supercomputers in our pocket that can store unlimited data for pennies and can measure anything. This has opened doors.” – Jeffrey Brewer (Bigfoot Biomedical)

On A Consumer User Experience and What’s Missing

  • “The issue in diabetes isn’t about patients wanting to have good glycemic control. They don’t need a sermon about that. The issue is about developing tools to reduce burden so they can focus less on their diabetes.” – Howard Wolpert (Lilly Cambridge Innovation Center)
  • “Will people turn around to go home if they forget their device? That’s the kind of engagement we need.” – Mr. Valencia (Qualcomm Life)
  •  “I would say the thing people are missing is many of us focus on our own little silo and forget that things are systems – the only thing that matters is that the patient is safe and their life is easier. That’s what’s important.” – Jeffrey Brewer (Bigfoot Biomedical)
  • “Libre was perceived as a type 2 product. That’s not true at all – uptake is nearly all type 1s now. You can never get it too simple and straightforward.” – Jared Watkin (Abbott)
  • “It’s hard to open up and share with others. Things get wasted as a company – we can’t all do everything better than someone else, so it’s important to have connectivity.” – Kevin Sayer (Dexcom)

[Photo Credit: Jim Babwe]