Patient Engagement, Devices & Diagnostics

This is what deep patient satisfaction looks like

Continuous glucose monitoring has not been around a long time, but it appears that some who use it, swear by it.

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Covering the business of innovation can end up make you feeling slightly jaded.

We have a front-row seat to what is new and compelling, but it’s quite common to encounter company executives routinely presenting themselves as having an unparalleled product or service. The best thing since sliced bread yadi yada yada…

However, once in a while, you run into a situation that cuts through the hype and goes to the heart of what healthcare innovation is striving for every day: deep patient satisfaction.

And so it was at MedCity’s own ENGAGE conference in San Diego that blended a mix of outspoken patient voices and business imperatives to build tools that lead patients to be on top of their diseases, feel more empowered, have better outcomes, and in turn, lower costs.

On Tuesday, Daniel McCaffrey, director of marketing, digital health, data and analytics at San Diego-based Dexcom, presented how diabetes technology is advancing. That means moving away from low-tech finger pricks to measure glucose levels to continuous glucose monitoring where a sensor is placed beneath the diabetic’s skin in the abdomen region to measure blood glucose constantly.

CGM is widely believed to provide better glycemic control because of continuous measurements and is used primarily by Type 1 diabetes patients though it is proving to be valuable in that regard for Type 2 patients too. Among other features, the technology can alert patients at night if they hover very close to hypoglycemia, which is dangerous. Alerted, the patient can quickly consume some simple carbs to raise blood glucose levels.

At the end of his presentation, McCaffrey concluded by saying,

“I believe that data analytics is about opportunity and transformation. It’s about making a real difference in people’s lives by making information and connections that they need in the way that they need it. And I think that last part is really critical.”

That resonated with Cheryl Morrisson Deutsch, chief experience officer at Zillion Health who stepped up to the audience microphone.

“My daughter is actually also a patient of yours, and I think you really underplayed the life changing event that happens when a child gets this kind of technology, which enables sleepovers, going out to the movies with friends, hanging out and doing things that would not have been possible without a lot of phone calls and worry. Especially with the Share, it changes the game in how she dealt with care for herself at a very young age.”

Morrison Deutsch went on to talk about how the Clarity app that Dexcom has made available for patients and providers, leverages Big Data and analytics very simply for the home user by providing a handful key metrics.

“She doesn’t go a week without it,” said Morrison Deutsch, who has zero financial ties to Dexcom.

Later, in a response to questions in an email, she explained that her daughter, Riley, 15, was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes in the summer of 2012 and got the Dexcom sensor six months after the diagnosis. Life before CGM involved way too many fingerstick measurements for her daughter. This was the fingerstick routine Riley had to endure daily — when she awoke in the morning, when she ate, before she played soccer or rode a horse or went rollerblading and if she felt a high or low coming, at bedtime and often in the middle of the night.

Now, with the CGM sensor, pricking your fingers needed to calibrate the sensor was down to once or twice a day, compared with eight to ten, Morrison Deutsch said. That freedom has been a blessing to both mother and daughter.

“Having Dexcom has changed her life and mine.  I woke up almost very night to check her until we got Dexcom,” she wrote in the email. “Once she got Dexcom we could sleep through the night knowing it would wake us if there was a dangerous low…that in itself was an amazing outcome. We are less afraid to treat a high blood glucose because we can see the trend and we can be more aggressive in treating her with insulin. This is a tool that has changed not only her life today but it will change her life for years to come as she better manages her blood sugars leading to tighter control and a greatly reduced risk of complications.”

This is as good as it gets when it comes technology validation and patient satisfaction.

Now the question is, can CGM be made more affordable so it becomes more widely adopted? Dexcom is working with Verily (formerly Google Lifesciences) to develop a smaller, cheaper, disposable, next-gen CGM sensor. As is Medtronic, which is partnering with Qualcomm.

Photo Credit: lushik, Getty Images