Diabetes Technology: The Time is Now!

“Digital technology really has the power to fundamentally change the delivery of diabetes care.”

I could not agree more with this quote said by Dr. Howard Wolpert at this year’s ADA Scientific Sessions in New Orleans. Technology is changing the way we think about diabetes care. Mobile apps and services are empowering people to take ownership of their health, identify patterns (and problems), and take action. Tech is democratizing diabetes education and care. It’s our job to leverage it!

There is a diabetes paradox: People need to make data-driven decisions, but they often have no idea how to use their data (or worse, don’t have access to it). This is an issue I see a lot with my patients. Diabetes is overwhelming enough–a lot of data and numbers can feel even more confusing.

The problem is not really about the amount of data, but rather what to do with it. People need help interpreting their numbers. As both a psychologist and person with diabetes, I am excited about the ways that technology can improve diabetes management, particularly in terms of education, self-efficacy, and support.

Education

As a diabetes psychologist, I spend a lot of time with my patients answering questions about diabetes. Here’s the problem: I see most people once a week and people see their doctor even less frequently. It’s really helpful be able to ask (and hopefully get answers) without having to wait for an appointment. We can’t wait any longer!

Blog Post: Diabetes technology, education Technology can play a big role here. It is already used to disseminate diabetes information, education, and advice. Searching the internet is one approach in people’s quest for knowledge, but new technologies offer more sophisticated information delivery. For instance, mobile apps may identify knowledge gaps and tailor information, thereby personalizing education. For many of my patients, real-time information and insights are really important. They want to be able to use their own data to do this but just don’t know how. Technology can help them break down complex data and give them meaningful information in the moment it matters, not in a doctor’s office well after the fact.

Self-efficacy

Diabetes self-efficacy is the confidence in one’s capacity to manage diabetes. I work hard to help my patients see that their behavior matters in their diabetes management. I’ve seen lots of people who are on the verge of hopelessness because they feel like there is nothing they can do to manage their blood sugars. Behavior matters in diabetes management, and our challenge is to help people understand and embrace this reality. From my own experience with diabetes, real-time feedback has been incredibly helpful in showing me that my choices matter (which helps me make better choices, especially with food).

Blog Post: Technology and Diabetes, Self-efficacy

Support

I’ve learned that that diabetes is not a do-it-yourself condition. People with diabetes need emotional and practical support. Although this is not something that Dr. Wolpert talked about, technology lets people with diabetes connect with each other in a community as well as with professionals who can answer questions and provide encouragement.

I’m always surprised when I meet someone with diabetes who has never met another person with diabetes. The first thing I suggest to people like this is to meet others, either in person or virtually, so they don’t feel so alone in their experience. Technology opens the door to give and receive that support anytime, anywhere.

Blog Post: Technology, Diabetes, Support

 

Change is never easy, but it’s necessary to address diabetes on the scale that we are working on. Thank you Dr. Wolpert for giving a voice to this issue. I appreciate it, not only for my patients, but also for myself. Now is the time to leverage the technology we have, and develop new technology to improve the lives of people with diabetes. Let’s go!

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Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE
Mark Heyman, PhD, CDE

Dr. Mark Heyman is a Clinical Psychologist and Certified Diabetes Educator, with expertise in the emotional and behavioral aspects of diabetes, including changes that improve physical and mental health outcomes in people with diabetes. When Mark was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes in 1999, he was frustrated by the lack of resources available to help people navigate the behavioral and emotional challenges of living with the disease. As a psychologist and CDE, Mark now uses his knowledge and experience to tackle the complexities associated with diabetes. Mark developed and currently leads the One Drop | Experts program. He received his PhD in Clinical Psychology from The George Washington University and completed his psychology internship and post-doctoral fellowship at the UCSD School of Medicine. Mark holds an appointment as a voluntary Assistant Clinical Professor in the UCSD Department of Psychiatry. In his spare time, Mark can be found performing with his improvisational comedy team *Inside Joke*. Find Mark on Twitter: @DiabeticPsych