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Diabetes Digital Coach – ‘Internet of Things’ test bed

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As part of an innovative NHS Test Bed, the West of England AHSN is pioneering a new online, digital service to help people with diabetes manage their condition and cut the risk of complications.

Around 700 people every day are told the bad news they have diabetes1, but the new Diabetes Digital Coach could help them get to grips with the disease and avoid the long-term complications of diabetes, such as stroke, heart and kidney disease and foot problems.

On average, people with diabetes spend three hours a year with a healthcare professional2. For the remaining 8,757 hours they are left to manage their diabetes themselves.

Available via computer, tablet and smart phone, the Digital Diabetes Coach is designed to give adults with type 1 and type 2 diabetes more confidence and control over their own condition, by bringing together a number of online self-management tools, which provide personalised support. It is available at www.diabetesdigitalcoach.co.uk

When people sign up for an account with the Diabetes Digital Coach, they provide information about themselves, their health, lifestyle, and how they currently manage their diabetes. The Coach then suggests the most appropriate tools to suit their individual needs.

Co-developing the future with patients and leading technology providers

The Diabetes Digital Coach has been developed by consortium of 10 technology and evaluation partners, led by the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN).

Dr Elizabeth Dymond, project lead for the Diabetes Digital Coach and deputy director of enterprise at the West of England AHSN, said: “As a network we bring together NHS providers and commissioners to focus on the most complex issues facing patients and the health service. It has been really exciting to collaborate on Diabetes Digital Coach with our innovator and technology partners to develop this new approach, harnessing digital solutions to tackle a priority need.“

Carefully selected by healthcare professionals and people with diabetes, the five digital self-management tools featured on the Coach are:

  • Lincus: an online personal health record to help people monitor progress to manage their diabetes, and take more control of their overall health and well-being
  • KiActiv® Health: helps people to use every day physical activity to manage their diabetes and lower future disease risk. This unique technology includes a clinically proven online platform, an accurate movement tracker and the support of a KiActiv® Champion.
  • Mapmydiabetes: an online support programme providing personalised information to help people understand their diabetes and how to manage it.
  • SocialDiabetes: an app that helps people to keep on top of their blood sugar levels by tailoring each insulin dose personally. It connects directly to most Bluetooth and NFC-enabled glucose meters.
  • Oviva Diabetes Support: personalised advice and support on nutrition from an expert dietitian. Weekly 1-to-1 coaching is provided over the phone or via the Oviva app, where people can also monitor what they eat, activity levels and weight.

Sandra Tweddell, who has type 1 diabetes and leads the Bristol network of Diabetes UK support groups: “Everyone is individual and responds to diabetes in different ways. With technology such as the Diabetes Digital Coach, it’s not one size fits all. It’s one size fits one. You become an expert in your own diabetes and can manage your own care in partnership with your health care professional.

“In the absence of a cure, technology is the answer.”

Encouraging people to staying healthier around the nation

Developers of the Diabetes Digital Coach, part of the NHS Test Beds programme, are looking to enrol 3,500 people with diabetes around the UK to try out the service. This will help them evaluate the uptake of digital self-management support and the impact it has on people’s diabetes, overall health and relationship with their healthcare team.

It is hoped the Diabetes Digital Coach will encourage people to better look after themselves and stay healthier in the longer term. The Coach aims to enhance the care provided by medical professionals rather than replace it, and will encourage people with diabetes to take more interest in their care and make decisions about it.

Real-time insights impacting the future of digital healthcare

Dr Hein Le Roux, a GP in Gloucestershire and patient safety lead for primary care at the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), said: “If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, the Diabetes Digital Coach could really help you improve your health and wellbeing. We’re looking for adults with diabetes to work with us and test this new online service.

“The Coach will give you comprehensive, real-time insights, putting you in the driving seat to manage your own condition. It’s easy to use. You input personal information about yourself, your lifestyle and your condition and the tool suggests a programme tailored to your needs.

“The personalised approach helps you uncover hidden patterns and trends about your lifestyle that are affecting your diabetes. You will be better able to take prompt action or share information with your healthcare team and seek help to prevent your condition deteriorating and reducing the risk of complications.”

Dr Elizabeth Dymond added:

“The findings of the project should have a significant impact on the future of digital health and citizen-centric healthcare.”

“We can’t wait to see what people with diabetes think of the Coach and what difference it makes to their lives. Our ambition is for people to see the combined benefits of using a number of different digital interventions, helping with different aspects of their condition and health in general.”

An IoT project

Five of the seven NHS Test Beds are funded directly by NHS England, while two are IoT (or Internet of Things) test beds, funded by the Department of Health through Innovate UK.

The IoT test beds are part of the Digital Catapult’s IoTUK programme, which seeks to advance the UK’s global leadership in IoT and increase the adoption of high quality IoT technologies and services throughout businesses and the public sector.

Idris Jahn from Digital Catapult’s IoTUK programme said: “The Internet of Things has huge potential to change people’s lives by improving the environment we live in and the way we access services, in particular, personalised health and social care. IoTUK and the Diabetes Digital Coach are pioneering how people with diabetes manage their long term condition, using a combination of connected technologies. The results of this work will provide a tremendous benefit for the diabetes community.”

 

People will be able to sign up to use the Diabetes Digital Coach at www.diabetesdigitalcoach.co.uk until 30 June 2018. The project runs as part of the NHS Testbeds programme until the end of July 2018, after which an evaluation report will be published.

 

  • References
  1. Figure based on newly diagnosed figures from the 2011/12 and 2012/13 National Diabetes Audit, extrapolated up to the whole population with diabetes indicated by the QoF data for the equivalent years and divided by two to give an annual average.

Diabetes UK
www.diabetes.org.uk/professionals/resources/shared-practice/diabetes-education