During the course of our work with Intel we have come across a great many instances of how technology is transforming healthcare delivery – everything from predictive analytics to robotic surgery. With World Diabetes Day taking place this month, we decided to take a closer look.

More people than ever have diabetes. Marked globally on November 14, World Diabetes Day raises awareness and advocacy across the globe. The latest figures show that there are now almost 3.7 million people living with a diagnosis of the condition in the UK, an increase of 1.9 million since 1998. Indeed, by 2025 Diabetes UK predicts that more than five million people will have diabetes in the UK.

The number of self-monitoring appliances that have entered the health industry are helping consumers monitor all types of data from heartrate to nutrition. Monitoring blood glucose levels is fundamental to managing effects of the condition, yet the method of measuring through the finger-prick test has changed very little since the earliest of diabetes monitoring.
This series will explore how an improved and far less invasive diabetic treatment has been created and tested for consumer use. However, what stands in the way are the clinical commissioning groups (CCGs) who have been resistant to changing the methods of treatment.

A milestone in diabetic treatment

Discovered in 1921, Sir Frederick Grant Banting and Charles Herbert Best found the cure for diabetes in purified insulin from the pancreases of cows at the University of Toronto. Almost one hundred years later we find ourselves at the next milestone of diabetic monitoring, the FreeStyle Libre. This device is a non-invasive glucose monitoring system consisting of an implanted sensor and a scanner. This device has been recognised by many as having the potential to transform the lives of patients and families whilst simultaneously reducing the financial burden of both the direct cost of diabetes and any associated complications.

The UK now has one of the highest rates of Type 1 diabetes in the world, with more young children being affected. Managing diabetes requires the patient to measure blood glucose levels by a finger-prick test up to as many as 15 times a day. This process can often be intrusive and painful. Indeed, many schoolchildren often find it difficult to regularly monitor at school. Self-testing is an essential part of managing diabetes to stay healthy and prevent serious diabetic complications where having too much sugar in the blood damages the vessels.

Therefore, new methods of managing diabetes that can be monitored with the scan of a sensor are extremely desirable for patients.

Feeling like a “human pin cushion”?

In BBC Radio 4’s Inside Health podcast we can begin to understand how life changing this treatment is. A father explained that he felt the family’s only option was to self-fund the FreeStyle Libre for their son when he was unable to play Lego because his hands were in such pain from multiple finger-prick testing.

Whilst adoption across the UK is small, a large proportion of users have chosen to fund the sensor themselves because the treatment is not available from their health district.

This post shows an overview of diabetes healthcare treatment and how technology can help improve those who live with the condition. The next post will look at the benefits of the FreeStyle Libre and Diabetes UK’s #FightForFlash campaign.