Health and medicine

The internet of type 1 diabetes

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The numbers are staggering. In their 2016 Global Report on Diabetes, the World Health Organization found that:

  • Globally, an estimated 422 million adults were living with diabetes in 2014, compared to 108 million in 1980
  • The global prevalence of diabetes has nearly doubled since 1980, rising from 4.7% to 8.5% in the adult population
  • It caused 1.5 million deaths in 2012, and higher-than-optimal blood glucose caused an additional 2.2 million deaths.
  • Diabetes will be the 7th leading cause of death in 2030.

And these numbers don’t even take into consideration the economic impact of the disease, both personally and societally.

It’s an issue that is close to my heart – and my (non-working) pancreas. I am a Type 1 diabetic, diagnosed more than 30 years ago.

My family also has an impressive history of diabetes. My father was diagnosed at 38 and lived with the disease for more than 40 years (although I certainly saw the toll it took on him over the years). Three out of five of my siblings have also been diagnosed, plus three nephews and one great nephew.

I have seen technology improve diabetes management and care, especially over the last 10-15 years. Whereas I used to give myself at least 5 insulin shots a day and test my blood sugar 3-4 times a day (and that’s not as much as my doctor wanted me to), I now use an insulin pump and a Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM). I still try to test my blood sugar at least 3-4 times a day, but with the CGM, but I can sometimes get by with as little as 2. I also use a fitness tracker, since exercise is such an important component of day-to-day management.

Diabetes and the Internet of Things

As I now approach my 33rd year of dealing with this disease – and knowing full well that the long-term effects can be devastating – I am inspired to learn more and do more to manage it. I have these sensors and devices, but they don’t ‘talk to each other’ and they certainly don’t provide any insight into what I could be doing better.

This blog represents the start of a journey for me – a journey to understand how cognitive computing and analytics – along with the myriad of devices and sensors that are available to manage type 1 diabetes – can not only help me make better decisions and improve my quality of life, but also prevent potentially catastrophic situations (low blood sugars). I also want to understand how I can provide data and insight to my endocrinologist so that my quarterly visits with her are more productive.

I know that IBM is partnering with Medtronic to combine Medtronic’s expertise in diabetes treatment with IBM’s Watson cognitive technologies to develop Medtronic solutions that help people improve their health and reduce the burden of managing their condition. And IBM and Nordisk are working together to create diabetes solutions built on the Watson Health Cloud that improve diabetes care via insights from real-time, real world evidence of Novo Nordisk diabetes treatments and devices. Just last week, IBM and the American Diabetes Association announced a long-term collaboration to bring together the cognitive computing power of Watson and the Association’s vast repository of clinical and research data. But there is so much more going on out there and I want to understand the possibilities.

It’s my internet of type 1 diabetes journey. I hope you will join me to learn more about the potential of applying cognitive and analytics technology to improve and personalize diabetes management.

I would love to hear how you or someone you know is using IoT to manage illness, please get in touch using the comments field below.

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