November is National Diabetes Month. Diabetes is a chronic disease that continues to be an epidemic in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), approximately 9.4% of the country’s population (equivalent to around 30.3 million people) have diabetes. Those afflicted with the disease suffer complications, and it is currently the seventh leading cause of death in the U.S. As with any disease, technology has the potential to make an impact in diabetes treatment. Diabetes technology could provide significant advantages to those afflicted with it and the clinicians who treat them.
Technology Ushers in a Digital Transformation in Diabetes Treatment
Prior to innovation, the management of diabetes was complex and rudimentary. Now, patients can use continuous glucose monitors in lieu of finger pricks. Digital patches and insulin pumps have also made insulin dosage more predictable. Connected medical devices can now closely monitor an individual and provide data to physicians for improved treatment plans.
Diabetes tech companies are growing and working to deliver easier solutions for those afflicted with the condition. This digital transformation is thanks in part to the diabetes community, which is significantly active online. They are clear advocates for better solutions.
Massive medical companies have since started working on an artificial pancreas while other startups are focused on how smartphones can revolutionize diabetes care. But what’s the future of diabetes technology, and what will its impact be?
Ending the Finger Pricks
Something most diabetes patients have been saddled with is regular finger pricks to check their glucose levels. Some may have to do this in excess of 10 times a day. It’s painful and inconvenient, to say the least. That’s why so much diabetes technology has focused on eliminating them.
DexCom, a diabetes management company, has been working on continuous glucose sensing technology for decades. Its must current iteration does not require finger pricks; rather, it uses a sensor under the skin to provide data on glucose levels.
Taking monitoring fully into the modern digital world, the company has partnered with Apple to connect the company’s watch with the sensor. They are working with Google as well on its next version.
Other medical device companies are making similar strides. Abbott has the FreeStyle Libre, a remote monitoring solution that uses “flash” technology. The user wears a sensor on the upper arm, measuring glucose in the body by accessing interstitial fluid. Abbot has since been able to integrate the device with Bluetooth.
These innovations are literally life-changing for diabetes patients. There are no more invasive pricks, and they now have consistent data, which can be analyzed for more effective insulin dosing and treatment.
Noninvasive Glucose Monitoring
Not every diabetes patient is so willing to have a sensor implant, but there are still options that don’t involve blood draws. A recent FDA-approved alternative is available in the POPS! One System. The device adheres to the back of a smartphone and has a lancet, which is a sensor port that measures blood glucose. Those results are then available within their app.
Nemaura also has a noninvasive solution with the SugarBEAT CGM. The device has a stick skin patch that draws out a small amount of glucose from the interstitial fluid without any discomfort.
Insulin Pumps & SmartPens
Insulin pumps are programmable, delivering a predetermined rate of insulin while also storing data relating to usage patterns. While these pumps work well, they are bulky and restrict mobility. Insulin pens offer a different approach without the baggage. These pens are affordable, noninvasive, and lightweight. These have become preferable with patients, but they don’t provide the features of being programmable or collecting data.
The latest innovation in this category seems to capture the best of both of its predecessors. SmartPens track insulin dosage and timing via Bluetooth reported to a smartphone app. Examples include the InPen, Gocap, and NovoPen Echo Plus.
Is the Artificial Pancreas Soon to be a Reality?
An artificial pancreas doesn’t equate to a synthetic organ. Instead, it’s the use of different tools to replicate the actions of a healthy pancreas. A continuous glucose monitor would continuously check blood sugar levels while an insulin pump would employ an algorithm to deliver the right amount of insulin.
The concept of the artificial pancreas is looking formidable. So much so, a report anticipates the market to be valued at over $390 million by 2024. The drive to dominate this market is being led by Medtronic with its MiniMed 670G system. This system works as a hybrid closed-loop system. It constantly monitors blood sugar levels, automatically dosing insulin as need. However, patients still need to input the bolus insulin dosage based on diet.
Another possible solution is the Beta Bionics iLet Bionic Pancreas System with insulin/glucagon. The company plans to seek FDA approval in the near future. The arrival of a tur artificial pancreas is still several years away. But patients can commit to a DIY diabetes technology that automates insulin delivery, which many patients have been using for years.
Is Curing Diabetes Achievable?
With every chronic disease, there is the quest to cure it. Technology has been a catalyst for cures in many cases; diabetes could be the same. The cure may be found in using technology to “fix” the pancreas. MIT researchers created a device that keeps pancreatic islets alive after implantation. Other academic collaborations have also included implanting living pancreatic cells.
Diabetes Technology: A Significant Market
With the rising prevalence of diabetes and the new possibilities to treat or cure it, diabetes technology will long be a significant market. If you, as a partner to the healthcare industry, have congruous solutions, it’s important to understand how the market is evolving and what opportunities are available. With this knowledge, you can better align your products and meet the needs of both clinicians and patients. Keep up to date on every aspect of the healthcare market by subscribing to our blog.
About the Author
Carevoyance contributor Beth Osborne is a professional writer and content marketer with multiple years of experience in healthcare IT marketing. Learn more about her by visiting her website.