Throughout National Diabetes Month, we will be sharing insights into Joslin’s innovations in care for diabetes and its complications as part of our mission of preventing, treating and curing diabetes. Our vision is a world free of diabetes and its complications.
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This week, learn about Joslin’s integration of digital healthcare into the patient experience. By blending the best of diabetes care with the digital age, Joslin is making it easier for patients to gain access to their healthcare team from afar, without having to come to the clinic.
This post was first published on Sept. 17, 2014.
Over the summer, Joslin Diabetes Center announced a new initiative focused on improving the current state of diabetes technology. Called the Joslin Institute for Technology Translation, the new group offers advice and solutions to diabetes medical device and technology companies to improve development of easier-to-use, more widely accessible products that help patients manage their diabetes.
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This could include anything from providing clinical input that may impact the redesign of pumps to be faster, more accurate and cost-effective, or to develop a mobile app that tracks your blood glucose levels.
A nationwide shortage of endocrinologists, diabetes nurse educators, and adult diabetes care centers has burdened the healthcare system and impacted timely patient care. Howard Wolpert, M.D., director of JITT, believes the future of medicine, particularly diabetes care, must begin with self-management technologies.
Over the past few years there have been incredible technological breakthroughs, but they are far from perfect and not widely utilized. For example, the nationwide adoption rate of continuous glucose monitors (CGMs) is less than 30 percent. “It’s a phenomenal technology,” says Dr. Wolpert, “but patients need a lot of guidance and training about how to use it.”
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With JITT, Dr. Wolpert hopes to overcome those difficulties and provide even more intuitive solutions for people with diabetes. So far, they have partnered with companies such as Glooko, Dexcom and Tandem Diabetes Care, to bring these solutions to bear.
Joslin Diabetes Center has a long history of optimizing clinical solutions for new technologies to better patient lives. When insulin was discovered in 1921, many diabetes wards closed because they thought the disease was cured. But Elliott P. Joslin wanted to teach patients how to properly use this new treatment. He started nurse educator programs and blood monitoring protocols to advance the diabetes care model.
Now, Dr. Wolpert believes the advent of mobile technology and diabetes-centered apps can help extend that original Joslin mission into the future. “If you look at the legacy of where Joslin started and how diabetes management is approached, you can say that what we’re doing here is just a continuation of that, but with different tools,” says Dr. Wolpert.
The first mobile tool released by JITT, called the Joslin HypoMap, is a patient and clinician app designed to track a patient’s symptoms, causes, and treatment of hypoglycemic events. The app operates on many smartphones and connects to more than 25 meters through a special cord or through a blue tooth technology. It allows patients to visualize and understand their hypoglycemic episodes, and provides an easy way to communicate the information to their diabetes care providers – efficiency and effectiveness.
The Joslin HypoMap (left) is the first of many mobile app innovations and company partnerships that JITT is pursuing. There are currently projects focusing on open loop systems, i.e., when the patient is in control of dosing and administering insulin. The Institute is also looking into closed loop systems, in which devices communicate and modify one another without complete oversight from the patient, e.g., the possibility of a “digital pancreas.” The primary goal of the closed loop studies is to figure out how to optimize insulin during different day-to-day situations including meals and exercise. These efforts are JITT’s way of responding to the growing interest in the development of meaningful medical apps that utilize state-of-the-art cloud computing.
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While most of the Founding Members of the Institute will be established medical device and technology companies, JITT plans to offer regular annual memberships to emerging technology companies and extend associate memberships to professional organizations like investment bankers, venture capital companies, and even law firms that are interested in JITT’s current and future projects. Everyone on the team is excited by the potential for growth that will ultimately cultivate products that change patients’ lives.
Stephanie Edwards, a project manager for JITT and a patient at Joslin, is particularly stirred by JITT’s goals. “In the past, I would read something about a new technology and think ‘How long is that going to take to be on the market? I’ll believe it when I see it,’” she says. She explains that JITT is essentially fast tracking clinical solutions with the most innovative tech ideas in an attempt to make it easier for those who need it most—diabetes patients. “We will make a difference in diabetes care,” she says.
Next week, learn about the state of diabetes around the world.
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Photo credit John Soares.