What’s Next for Diabetes: Patient Engagement, Personalization, and Usable Technology
Every year, the American Diabetes Association (ADA) hosts The State of Diabetes: Boston. This annual campaign and event focuses on raising awareness around health equity for the 133 million Americans living with diabetes and prediabetes.
Last year, Alira Health partnered with the ADA to support this conversation and explore the most important topics emerging from patients, physicians, specialists, and patient advocates including clinical trials, patient engagement, and technology.
Including patients in clinical research requires trust and time
“Patients are often seen as the recipients of care, but they can be active contributors in clinical research—from the design of a trial through the development of a drug, device, or digital solution,” says Gabriele Brambilla, Alira Health CEO and Event Chair for The State of Diabetes: Boston. “And COVID-19 really brought including patients in real-world evidence trials to the forefront.”
And while patients across disease categories are more aware of clinical trials, when it comes to recruiting for diabetes clinical trials, trust and time are essential elements. Doctors have an average of only 14 minutes with patients and they need to cover treatment plans and listen to patient needs—that doesn’t live much time to discuss clinical trials. When it comes to successful recruitment, planting the seed for a trial can be done during the visits, but the best approach is to spend the office visit listening to the patient, and then if a trial is a good fit, to follow up with a phone call or email.
COVID-19 also made virtual recruiting possible, providing researchers with patients who aren’t actively accessing care and may have a greater unmet need. Engaging family members and caregivers in the recruitment process and building connections with community organizations are also good options for connecting with patients outside a traditional clinical setting.
Personalization is key to health equity
Creating effective treatment plans for patients relies on understanding patients’ social determinants of health (SDOH). Personalization that includes these socioeconomic and cultural factors is key to creating equitable access to information, treatment, and resources. And understanding the full, daily experiences of the patient beyond just what they’re experiencing within the healthcare system is the first step.
Focusing on the full patient journey includes things like healthy eating, which is important to both prevention and management of diabetes. For example, a dietician needs to understand each patient’s individual journey to know what access they have to healthy food. For some patients, access may not be an issue, but for others, healthy food could be cost-prohibitive, or they may live in a food desert where they have to take three busses to a grocery store and they’re mostly going to eat at a convenience store or fast-food restaurant.
Similarly, with digital technology including telehealth, what are the SDOH impacting adherence and adoption? Listening to patients’ non-medical factors will help physicians and companies understand what is driving treatment and care decisions.
Patients and physicians alike want to build on the telehealth advances made during COVID-19
Telehealth has allowed physicians to see more patients as well as patients from around the country. Telehealth has also made more personalized treatment programs possible, with diabetes patients having access to a health coach who connects with their larger care team and provides multiple touchpoints per week. This personalized approach delivers access to Real-World Data and gives physicians the opportunity to optimize treatment programs in real-time.
And while computer literacy issues, internet access, and cost are all still barriers for patients, COVID-19 normalized telemedicine and allowed patients to get comfortable with remote health and distance care.
Creating usable technology is a must
Technology for diabetes patients, who are already managing many elements of care, must reduce their daily workload and improve clinical outcomes. The goal for technology in diabetes should be usable, simple technology that produces the right data so clinicians can have effective conversations about treatment with their patients. The best technology will enable the care team and patient to optimize their care and treat the whole patient.
And while engaging patients early for new technology is important so companies can iterate and improve in real-time, companies also need to find ways to engage patients post-launch to follow-up on the long-term usability of their products.
Watch 2022 State of Diabetes: Boston
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