Today, we hope to continue motivating y'all to get involved in the 2011 DiabetesMine Design Challenge!
One of the new faces on our Judging Panel this year comes from our sponsor, the California HealthCare Foundation (CHCF). Dr. Sophia Chang is Director of CHCF's Better Chronic Disease Care program. She's an internist who's done a lot of work with AIDS patients and also medical research examining health disparities in breast cancer care.
Sophia's also a really down-to-Earth lady who clearly cares a lot about the well-being of patients and sees technology as a powerful means to that end:
DM) What are some of the ways that you see technology already helping to achieve "Better Chronic Disease Care"?
SC) It's playing out in a variety of ways. From the health care provider side, greater numbers are adopting electronic health record systems, and in turn, opening up "portals" or views of those records to patients. We see this as an important step towards better communication between patients and providers and hopefully improved support systems for patients to manage their chronic conditions.
On the patient side, the plethora of automated systems to provide feedback to support better self-care (e.g., mobile technologies) is both exciting and at times overwhelming. The key is to develop technology that is easy to use, and can be a part of the workflow for providers and "lifeflow" for patients — and even more ideally, that supports better and more meaningful communication to optimize treatment and management plans. In other words, we need to use technology to make the job of managing chronic conditions simpler and more effective.
All sorts of handy new tools are being developed for people to manage their chronic illnesses better in their daily lives. Can you share some good examples you've seen, even outside of diabetes?
Some of the most effective tools simply monitor the daily status of a person, such as a scale to monitor the weight of a person with congestive heart failure. Noting that the patient may be retaining fluid (maybe they ate a lot of salt the previous day) and a simple mediation dose change can potentially prevent them from having difficulty breathing and requiring hospitalization.
These monitors can be very simple, just a scale that attaches or transmits its information via a phone line. The more difficult part is how that information is fed, either back to the patient with a clear plan for what to do, or to a provider to work with the patient on an action plan. This is the more complicated part.
Some systems use automated telephone monitoring. I've seen this in Spanish for diabetes care, for example, to help affirm medication dosing and other lifestyle changes. And insulin pumps, while still somewhat cumbersome to use, have been a huge breakthrough. I trained in medicine when we still only had two types of pig insulin and our ability to manage glucose levels was still pretty rudimentary.
You stated in our contest video that patients manage their illness 99% on their own. So true! How do you see social media and the ability to connect with a community online making an impact?
It's actually 99.99% of the time. We know and understand that making behavioral and life changes are best done in the context of a support system, whether it be family, community or social network. Especially for those who cannot easily access their peers in their community (and even for those who can), social media provides a very powerful tool to identify peers and share concrete tactics on how to manage their conditions (the kinds of things health care providers rarely have the time, or even experience, to help patients with).
We're very grateful to CHCF for several years of sponsorship — but you personally are new to working with us on the DiabetesMine Design Challenge. How do you think an innovation competition like this one can make a difference in quality of care?
We're optimistic that innovation can help transform the experience of managing chronic conditions for those who have them. Diabetes is one of the most prevalent conditions and unfortunately, the numbers are growing.
We have so many smart, innovative thinkers, designers and individuals out there — it's exciting to try and bring those fresh ideas into the diabetes management space!