Diabetes Educators Must Engage in Digital Health

Digital health may help spread diabetes education to patients in underserved or rural areas.

Digital health has transformed the way numerous people around the world receive healthcare. The technology can connect patients with physicians across the country or across the globe to receive necessary care.

During the general session at the American Association of Diabetes Educators meeting, diabetes educators were urged to embrace digital healthcare approaches and provide feedback to developers to further improve diabetes care and education.

In the session, Chris Bergstrom, MBA, digital health lead at Boston Consulting Group, said that digital health can greatly improve diabetes care.

“We’ve always had tools to deliver better care, and we use those tools whether they be stethoscopes, needles, meters,” Bergstrom said. “Today and going forward, we have new tools, but they require different things like typing and swiping and sharing and analyzing data. These tools will allow educators to really practice at the peak of their game, and to reach more patients.”

Due to the vast number of patients with diabetes and prediabetes, broadcasting education and treatment to this population is crucial. Patients who live in rural or underserved areas will likely receive the greatest benefit from digital health approaches being developed, according to the session.

“By putting new tools in the same hands, we can scale the skills of educators to empower self-management for millions of people with diabetes — on-going support superhuman style,” Bergstrom said.

Digital health is aligned with diabetes educators because these healthcare professionals practice in a real-world setting, opposed to a clinical setting. Diabetes educators may have the unique ability to improve the amount of evidence for digital health delivery, according to the session.

“We only have a small body of evidence behind the science so far. Some of that evidence has some really bright lights of showing there is high potential,” Bergstrom said. “It’s time we scale that research and understand and demonstrate what it is like in the hands of those who will recommend and use this for patient care.”

Current digital healthcare technology requires additional research and modification before it can be harnessed to improve outcomes on a large scale. If diabetes educators try novel digital approaches for their patients, they can share their results with researchers, manufacturers, and other educators to further improve the technology, according to the session.

“I hope that we can inspire them to embrace, tackle, challenge and learn from digital health. Use it in your practice, learn and experiment and then share those results with others,” Bergstrom said. “It is still so early stage that we need as many people as possible learning, experiencing and sharing what they’ve come across.”