Technology to help diabetics manage their disease—such as the artificial pancreas or mobile phone apps that help monitor glucose readings—might make a difference on an individual level, but the real key to tackling the disease is by making diabetes care more coordinated and patient-centered. The technology that will make a difference in that area is more familiar and less flashy: electronic health records, telemedicine, and basic information networks for sharing and collecting data.
Smart devices that can send glucose data to an information network will only be effective when there is an established and interconnected network for them to talk to, writes Elyas Bakhtiari in the December issue of HealthLeaders magazine. And although the healthcare industry hasn't yet built that base, hospitals and health systems are increasingly making it a priority.
The government is making it a priority, too—and putting money behind the effort. Of the that the Department of Health and Human Services awarded $220 million in grants through its Beacon Community Program is for piloting health information technology programs—the bulk of which is being used either directly or indirectly to improve diabetes care. The networks aren't easy to build, but there is a potential for significant return on investment if the government, providers, and payers share the burden.