In the last ten years, technological advances have made their way into diabetes care, and the next ten years are likely to completely change how diabetes is managed. Even though there are a lot of new ideas on the way, this technological revolution seems most likely to happen in these three areas.
After smartphones and smartwatches came along, the smart insulin pen was the next smart thing to come along. Simply put, a smartpen is an insulin pen that can record the amount and time of each insulin dose it gives and send that information wirelessly via Bluetooth to a linked mobile app.
At the moment, there are three main things that make it hard for insulin users to get a better handle on their diabetes: skipping or forgetting insulin doses, not increasing doses enough, and the risk of low blood sugar (low blood glucose levels). By making an interface that lets the pen keep track of insulin doses, store the data in an app, and share the data with users, caretakers, and health care professionals, the smart pen aims to create an ecosystem for diabetes care that can track not only the doses of insulin but also link up with the glucose sensor and suggest appropriate doses of insulin based on blood glucose levels – in effect, a low-cost insulin pump.
In theory, this sounds great, but there are a few problems that need to be solved before it can be done. Like all new medical innovations, smartpens will need to show that they can be useful outside of the lab, accurately report blood sugar levels, and save money.
Insulin pumps, which are about the size of a pen, replace the need for frequent injections. In the next couple of years, patch pumps will be the next big thing in insulin pumps.
Aside from being easy to use, another benefit of these wearable pumps is that after using them for more than 3–4 months, the total amount of insulin a person needs each day has gone down.
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In the last few years, it has been said that artificial intelligence would change the way diabetes is treated, but AI hasn’t lived up to its initial promise. Lack of actionable data, high cost of AI, and lack of connection between AI developers and current medical stakeholders in diabetes care has slowed down the development of an AI framework that can help or even replace health care providers in managing diabetes.
But recent trends show that diabetes AI is on the verge of making a big change in how people with diabetes are cared for. In the near future, AI will be most useful in adjusting the dose of insulin pumps, especially pumps that are linked to a glucose sensor to handle changes in blood glucose levels, diagnosing diabetes and complications related to diabetes earlier, and making algorithms smarter so they can predict high and low blood glucose levels and how they relate to a meal or even a certain food.
Many new diabetes technologies have been adopted more slowly than their creators had hoped. Insulin pumps (instead of daily injections), continuous glucose monitors (instead of glucometers), and insulin dosing mobile apps are just a few examples (as opposed to pen-and-paper charts). Technology inertia could also be a problem, especially for older people. The cost of these technologies also needs to be taken into account before they can be expected to be the norm instead of the exception in managing diabetes.