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Can Digital Medicine Help You Manage Type 2 Diabetes?

I got excited recently when I heard NPR was going to do a story about digital medicine and diabetes.1 The story turned to be about people with prediabetes, not diabetes, but it was still fascinating and sparked my curiosity.

Digital medicine is an emerging field

In the study the story talked about, people who had been diagnosed with prediabetes took part in a program that offered coaching, peer support, daily tracking of diet and exercise, and reminders if the participant didn’t do all of the things they were supposed to, all over digital devices such as smartphones.

This piece profiled a couple of people, one whom had lost 50 pounds over the course of a year and reversed his prediabetes, and another who had lost weight and found the program helpful but could have used even more support. Either way, the results seemed promising, but they didn’t satisfy me, because I wanted to know about digital medicine for folks who have type 2 diabetes, not prediabetes.

What I learned is this: Digital medicine is an emerging field, it’s not fully developed, but there’s great potential there.

Currently, there are struggles to giving those with type 2 diabetes all the care they need. Patient to doctor ratios are growing, so patients don’t always get the time they need. Not everyone lives close to their doctor, or has an easy way to get there as often as they need to. There’s also the patient burden of spending so much time monitoring themselves, their blood glucose, and what they eat.

So how can digital medicine potentially help?

According to one study, cloud-connected glucose monitoring systems are going to be a thing.2 This means that glucose readings can be automatically transferred to many different devices, including one that your healthcare provider sees, and gets rid of the hassle of cables and connections and downloading software. This will help providers see trends, and know how to use their limited time, as they’ll already have the information ahead of time. This technology exists, it’s just not quite ready for primetime. Let’s hope it becomes cost effective and widely available soon.

Telehealth is another type of digital medicine that’s growing in popularity. Any kind of contact that’s not in person, whether it’s via phone, text message, or video conferencing, counts. This type of service has certainly been on the rise in the last several years, and appears to have multiple benefits, especially when it comes to time and money savings. More research needs to be done on telehealth and its direct impact on type 2 diabetes, but it seems promising.

And let us not forget the ubiquitous app. You may already have some sort of health or fitness app on your phone, and if it’s working for you, that’s awesome. The future holds even better apps, though, including one that’s been clinically validated and is available by prescription only called WellDoc’s Blue Star. It’s been approved by the FDA and includes real-time coaching and motivational support to those with type 2 diabetes. One study showed that those using this app reduced their A1C by 1.9% over the course of a year, versus the control group, which only lowered their A1C by .7%.

Phew! I could write more, because there are other types of digital medicine out there, but I’ll stop now and leave you with this: The future of digital medicine is promising for helping people with type 2 diabetes monitor and improve their health. Some stuff is available now, with more technology around the corner. Talk to your primary health care provider next time you see them and see if there’s any way you can take advantage of these advances ASAP.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

  1. Aubrey A. This Chef Lost 50 Pounds And Reversed Prediabetes With A Digital Program. NPR. March 5, 2018.
  2. Iyengar V, Wolf A, Brown A, Close K. Challenges in Diabetes Care: Can Digital Health Help Address Them? Clinical Diabetes : A Publication of the American Diabetes Association. 2016;34(3):133-141. doi:10.2337/diaclin.34.3.133.