India currently has more than 77 million diabetics, and this number is expected to nearly double by 2045. The prevalence of diabetes among young people appears to be on the rise due to factors such as lack of physical activity, unhealthy lifestyle, eating habits and positive family history. With one third of patients diagnosed with type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) before the age of 40 years, and approximately two thirds of patients with uncontrolled diabetes, they remain at high risk of increased disease duration and chronic complications. With this said, the recent outbreak of COVID-19 has increased the burden of diabetes in the country.
Against the backdrop of cutting-edge technology, health technology startups have been game-changers in the better treatment of chronic diseases such as diabetes over the past several years. In India, where the ratio of doctors to patients is still around 1:1700, these startups are using telemedicine to deliver healthcare to the most remote places in the country. My personal experience with T2DM in my family for over a decade has taught me that rural Bharat needs equitable access to quality healthcare. By creating awareness about various modern and affordable healthcare options, health technology startups continue to deliver necessary healthcare services in a timely manner to the patient’s doorstep.
Challenges in managing T2DM
One of the major challenges facing healthcare providers today is to meet the ongoing needs and demands of individuals with chronic diseases such as diabetes. The importance of regular follow-up and continuous monitoring is of great importance in avoiding long-term complications. However, India leads the charts in poor adherence to diabetes treatment due to neglect, improper management of health records and limited health knowledge among the public. With no proven/available treatment, the need for self-management of such diseases becomes critical. It has been shown that individuals with diabetes make significant progress by participating in their own care – measuring and recording blood glucose, exercising, maintaining a diabetes diet, and taking medications regularly.
The role of technology in T2DM management
It requires high levels of health education, self-monitoring, and frequent contact with physicians to manage diabetes efficiently. For years now, doctors have relied on patients to keep a record of their health and blood glucose measurements and to ensure regular visits. Not only did this approach fail to account for factors such as lifestyle modifications and eating habits, but ensuring proper records was a daunting task, often resulting in incomplete and inaccurate measurements.
Changing lifestyle and rapid urbanization have led to a surge in diabetes cases across the country. The majority of T2DM care focuses on urban India, leaving the rural part of India in a slump. With the advent of telemedicine, access to quality healthcare for rural residents has become a new ray of hope. The Chunampet Rural Diabetes Prevention Project (CRDPP) is a classic example of delivering high-quality health care to rural India. A modern approach such as telemedicine is beginning to play an important role in better managing chronic diseases such as diabetes.
Technological innovations in the healthcare sector have provided tremendous potential for meeting individual needs in the field of diabetes care. In a world where smartphones provide instant access to information, the use of mobile health technology (mobile health) has experienced significant growth. Not only does this technology make healthcare more accessible, but it also puts more power in patients’ hands, further accelerating greater efficiency in delivering treatment. Another technological invention that has seen increased adoption is the FGM (Flash Glucose Monitoring) system – a sensor built into a wearable device – that enables a diabetic to track glucose levels at regular intervals.
Moreover, technologies such as EMR that allow clinicians to track a patient’s vital information, and course of treatment, are also emerging as enablers to deliver high-quality, cost-effective healthcare. EMR is a comprehensive platform that allows clinicians to collect and integrate all relevant data points into a single platform, ensuring better treatment decisions that can be customized to each patient. Comprehensive management by combining knowledge-based and data-driven models has good potential to help clinicians improve clinical outcomes for patients with T2DM.
The potential for EMRs to improve health outcomes for patients with chronic conditions such as T2DM is noteworthy. A gap in a patient’s health records related to key features such as vitals, FBS (fasting blood sugar) readings and HBA1C monitoring can impede recovery, and thus a clear overall and longitudinal view of personal health records (PHRs) is essential for a clinician to treat a chronic patient.
The future of digital healthcare
Adopting a technology-based approach such as telemedicine, medical health, or electronic medical records (EMR) has the potential to transform a patient’s view of healthcare. Technological advances have shown that access to health care can reach the most remote part of the country.
The launch of the Ayushman Bharat Digital Health Mission has accelerated the adoption of digital technologies in the healthcare sector. By enabling Digital HealthID for every citizen, clinicians will have access to a longitudinal view of patients’ health records to improve treatment and prognosis. Availability of medical data in real time will significantly reduce medical errors and help avoid redundant tests, further reducing the financial burden.
It is equally important that healthcare be customized with everyone’s needs in mind. With the increase in chronic diseases, personalized care of the individual becomes critical not only to provide effective treatment but also to meet his psychological needs. A high degree of customization and care can only be obtained with the help of new age technologies. New age technologies can reduce the gap due to the digital divide and enhance access to diabetes care in rural and underserved areas of the country.
Written by Prashant Parmar, Head of Sales (Physician Growth), HealthPlix Technologies Pvt Ltd
(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and ETHealthworld.com You don’t necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be liable for any damage caused to any person/organization directly or indirectly.)
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