News & Trends - MedTech & Diagnostics

Diabetes advancements: Is Australia keeping pace?

Health Industry Hub | July 17, 2023 |

MedTech & Diagnostics News: In a panel discussion led by Justin Cain, CEO of Diabetes Australia, diverse voices in the field came together to shed light on the incredible advancements in diabetes technology, urging Australia to ensure timely and equitable access for its citizens.

The discussion, held as part of National Diabetes Week, featured Dr Mary Abraham, a Consultant Endocrinologist at Perth Children’s Hospital; Amanda Bartlett, a Credentialled Diabetes Educator; Natalie Wischer, CEO of the National Association of Diabetes Centres (NADC); and David Burren and Cheryl, both individuals living with diabetes.

As the conversation unfolded, it became evident that technology has become a driving force in transforming the lives of individuals, especially children, living with type I diabetes. Dr Abraham highlighted the significant shift brought about by advancements in technology over the past decade.

“It’s not just about glucose levels; it’s about the quality of life for the entire family,” she noted. However, she voiced that keeping pace with the new features of the evolving technologies was a challenge for clinicians and diabetes educators.

With the adoption of continuous glucose monitors (CGM) and insulin pumps, the Perth Children’s Hospital has witnessed a remarkable 90% utilisation rate of CGM and uptake of 50% – 60% for closed-loop insulin delivery pumps among children with type 1 diabetes. This progress is indicative of the positive impact technology can have on managing diabetes and improving the well-being of patients and their families.

“At a European Conference on diabetes and technology earlier in the year, there was also emerging evidence around the benefits of using CGM or flash monitors for behavioural modifications in food selection and physical activity to assist diabetes patients,” noted Dr Abraham.

Cheryl, a diabetes patient and health professional, shared her personal experience with technology in the workplace. With her insulin pump, CGM, and automated insulin delivery system, she no longer feels burdened by her condition. “It allows me to participate in the workplace on an equal footing with anybody else, to not feel different because of my diabetes,” Cheryl explained.

However, she expressed concern about the affordability of these technologies, calling for increased accessibility for those unable to afford private health insurance.

David Burren, who has lived with diabetes for over 40 years, attested to the life-altering impact of advanced technologies. His daily routine has been simplified through the use of automated insulin delivery systems, eliminating the need for constant carb counting and food announcements.

“It’s almost as though you don’t have diabetes,” David remarked, highlighting the transformative nature of these technologies.

The issue of stigma and discrimination was also addressed during the discussion. David shared his journey from injecting insulin discreetly to confidently managing his diabetes in public, thanks to the discreet nature of modern medical devices. However, there remains a need to educate the public and promote acceptance and understanding of diabetes technology to combat lingering stigma.

Amanda Bartlett, a Credentialled Diabetes Educator, stressed the need for widespread access to technology, especially for those with type 2 diabetes, gestational diabetes, and other diabetes types. She emphasised the need for comprehensive education and support for healthcare professionals to stay up-to-date with the rapidly evolving landscape of diabetes technology.

Natalie Wischer, CEO of NADC, voiced concerns about the barriers to access diabetes technology. Affordability was identified as a significant challenge, particularly for those with type 2 diabetes, type 3C diabetes, and cystic fibrosis related diabetes.

Additionally, she highlighted the difficulties faced by individuals in rural and remote areas in accessing healthcare professionals with expertise in diabetes technology. Natalie called for increased subsidies and an expanded workforce to ensure optimal support and education for all individuals utilising diabetes technology.

When asked about priorities for subsidies and access, Cheryl emphasised the importance of prioritising women with gestational diabetes, as early intervention can positively impact the health outcomes of both mother and child. Dr Abraham echoed Cheryl’s sentiment and added that adolescents with type 2 diabetes require immediate attention and support. Both emphasised the need to bridge the gaps in access and affordability to ensure no one is left behind.

The discussion also touched on the potential role of artificial intelligence (AI) in managing diabetes. David shared insights about AI-powered analysis tools that can interpret patterns in CGM data, offering personalised recommendations for patients.

As the discussion concluded, the consensus among panellists was clear: Australia must do more to ensure timely and equitable access to diabetes technology. The integration of advanced technologies into the healthcare system will not only enhance patient outcomes but also alleviate the strain on healthcare professionals. Greater subsidies, an expanded workforce, and comprehensive education are essential steps toward realising a future where diabetes technology is accessible to all Australians living with the condition.

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