An A-eye on diabetes: What COVID-19 taught us about the importance of telemedicine and artificial intelligence

An A-eye on diabetes: What COVID-19 taught us about the importance of telemedicine and artificial intelligence

June 08, 2020
Eran Atlas
By Eran Atlas

Medical technology has surged in the last 10 years to transform the medical sector for the better. So far, medtech has spurred wonderful developments across different disciplines, including radiology, immunology, pharmacology, and virology. With around 442 million people suffering from diabetes globally, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), there is a rising demand for technology to help manage treatments, especially during the pandemic.

It's been well documented for the last 20 years that people with diabetes require frequent titration and analysis. In 1993, Dr. Roz D. Lasker submitted the now-well known article titled "The Diabetes Control and Complication Trial," which was published in The New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Lasker demonstrated how frequent titration is important in order to avoid complications in insulin management for people with diabetes on insulin therapy. Thus, moving forward, it was clear that people with diabetes would require frequent professional analysis of their medical records and data, and access to these professionals in order to facilitate such analysis.

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This meant patients would need more frequent visitations at their local endocrinologist to maintain steady, healthy levels of glucose in the body. Unfortunately, however, endocrinology is a medical discipline short of many specialists in the United States to begin with. In 2017, MedScape reported that there were only 6,500 endocrinologists in the country, tasked with facing a volume of about 30 million people with diabetes in the U.S. "Daunting" would be an understatement here. To make matters worse, many general physicians and other medical personnel are unable to provide sufficient clinical care because they don't have the tools or the expertise to fill for the high demand.

The advent of COVID-19 opened a new can of worms for diabetes treatment. Amid serious concerns that diabetes patients were at greater risk of complications should they be infected with the virus, many of them were relegated to staying home, out of the public sphere, and less able to access healthcare resources. The focus had shifted largely to all-hands-on-deck for fighting coronavirus, as other cases were pushed to the side. Even some endocrinologists, while in self-quarantine, found themselves answering questions about the virus that other types of physicians were much better qualified to answer due to a shortage of medical hands.

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