How AI Can Make Life with a Chronic Condition More Fulfilling

How AI Can Make Life with a Chronic Condition More Fulfilling

Living with a chronic condition such as diabetes—or even mitigating your risk of developing one—often means dealing with a lot of uncertainty. You’re not always sure how the food at your family’s new favorite restaurant will impact your blood sugar, nor can you always tell what’s causing a pattern of glucose highs or lows. That’s where digital health tools and innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence (AI) come in.

Think of it this way: The uncertainty that can come with managing your chronic condition can breed not only stress, but also the sense of being out of control, says One Drop health coach, Julia Dugas, a registered dietitian/nutritionist (RDN) and certified personal trainer (CPT).

Yes, your doctor can help answer your questions and make recommendations, but how often do you really get to see them? How difficult is it to find an appointment time that works for everyone’s schedules?

In reality, living with a chronic condition typically entails round-the-clock management—more time than you can realistically spend inside your doctor’s office. So, what do you do when you’re not at one of your dozens of appointments?

Enter: AI-powered self-care.

Defining AI In Digital Self-Care

Generally speaking, AI gives computers the ability to think, reason, and problem-solve at the same level as humans.

In digital health, specifically, AI can help you find patterns in details such as blood sugar highs and lows, blood pressure fluctuations, medication efficacy, and more.

How? When you share your health data with an app or other digital platform that uses AI, the technology can help generate accurate insights and predictions based on not just your information, but also that of anyone else who shares their data with the platform. Essentially, AI sifts through all of that data—in some cases, tens of billions of data points—to find people with similar health backgrounds and health experiences as yours. The more data the technology has to work with, the more accurate its insights and recommendations will be.

Using AI to Stay Three Steps Ahead of Your Chronic Condition

Whether you currently live with a chronic condition or you want to reduce your risk factors, AI can help you stay on top of your self-care.

Blood pressure insights, for example, help you understand how your blood pressure is trending over time and provide you with suggestions about what you can do to affect those trends, giving you the opportunity to proactively lower your risk of heart health complications and hypertensive crises.

Then you have blood sugar forecasts, which allow you to get predictions of where your glucose levels may trend in the near future, explains Dugas. “This empowers you to go about your day more prepared,” she says.

For instance, if you’re heading out the door and your blood sugar insights indicate that you’ll be trending low in the next few hours, maybe you’ll bring a snack with you that includes a balanced mix of complex carbs and protein to even out your blood sugars and avoid a rebound high.

Access to blood sugar predictions also means being able to understand the big picture of your health, adds Dugas. In other words, you’ll not only see moment-to-moment snapshots of your blood sugar levels, but also how larger trends have changed over time, she explains.

And, along the way, your One Drop coach is there to help you make sense of the numbers and how to act on them. “One of my favorite ways to use AI in coaching is to encourage people to do paired testing to find out how different foods impact them specifically,” shares Dugas.

Paired testing—which involves checking your blood sugar right before a meal and then again two hours later—allows you to learn how certain foods, portions of foods, and even timing of meals impact your unique body so you can make informed decisions about your health. Research shows that paired testing can help folks with type 2 diabetes maintain healthy A1C levels, and it can help you learn more about not just your nutritional behaviors, but also how your nutrition may impact other aspects of your self-care (and vice versa), such as your medication or exercise routine.

Feeling Empowered In Daily Decision-Making

Considering the hundreds of health-related decisions people with diabetes make every day, it’s easy to see how day-to-day management can quickly lead to fatigue or self-doubt.

But leveraging the benefits of AI in digital health tools—especially once you can really understand and interpret the data—can feel like putting yourself back into the driver’s seat. AI-powered strategies such as paired testing “put you in control, instead of making you feel like you’re dependent on prescriptive recommendations from a professional,” says Dugas.

“AI gives you more confidence because you’re able to know what’s happening with your health instead of just guessing,” she explains.

Of course, while taking ownership of your health is extremely rewarding, your One Drop coach is still there to field your questions and support you along the way when you need guidance.

That said, though, “as coaches, our goal is not to make you dependent on us,” notes Dugas. “Our goal is to empower you to feel like you know what to do, how to take action, and be confident in your decisions around managing your health.”

When you’re confident about your health management, rather than constantly stressed or overwhelmed by it, you inevitably free up mental and emotional space for the things that really matter in life, says Dugas, whether that’s quality time with loved ones or more time to work on passion projects.

Bottom line: “When you feel confident in your ability to manage your health,” says Dugas, “you spend less time worrying and more time living.”

This article has been clinically reviewed by Jamillah Hoy-Rosas, MPH, RDN, CDCES, and VP of clinical operations at One Drop.

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Allie Strickler
Jul 27, 2021

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