Looking at the Intersection of Healthcare and Technology
How has technology helped us in our society? What about technology in healthcare? Technology, although it sometimes seems to have a negative connotation, is something we all live with and use each and every day.
On one side, technology has saved millions upon millions of people through advances with technology in healthcare and research, indicating new ways to manage infectious/chronic disease and certain cancers and diabetes, something I will get to in a moment.
On the other hand, advances in cellular phones, handheld devices, laptops, and other electronic devices are contributing to the fact that children around the world spend a staggering amount of time spent looking at their screens. Children are increasingly overweight and obese due to their lack of venturing out into the world unknown to them.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 12.7 million children and adolescents aged 2-19 years of age are obese. What’s even more staggering, new research suggests that overall obesity prevalence among children whose adult head-of-household completed college was approximately half of those whose adult head-of-household did not complete high school. For more information, check out the CDC website regarding diabetes.
Technology in healthcare today
So tech is good, tech is bad, tech is everywhere. What some people tend to forget when they say technology is killing our planet, is how this same technology they feel is harmful, is saving lives each and every day. I am a Type 1 Diabetic. No I am not overweight, no I am not obese, no I did not do this to myself. I just have the luxury of having tremendous genetics which allow my body to attack its own beta cells in my pancreas.
If you are unfamiliar with the differences in Type 1, Type 2, Gestational, Type 3, LADA, MODY, or any of the other six forms of diabetes, please feel free to check out this cool website explaining the differences amongst them.
Diabetes technology – the Continuous Glucose Monitor
Here’s an example of how technology in healthcare is great, but possibly only for those who can afford it. I do not consider myself to be incredibly wealthy, however I have some of the best medical and health insurance available. There is a piece of technology available called the Continuous Glucose Monitor (more commonly referred to as a CGM), and it is truly a diabetic’s best friend.
Instead of a diabetic sticking themselves ten times a day to monitor blood glucose levels, the CGM only requires two sticks a day and relays what your current blood glucose levels are every five minutes! How cool is that? Well, it’s cool.
CGM use equals better control of one’s blood glucose, and better control of blood glucose equals less chance of developing complications later in life such as blindness, kidney failure, and amputations just to name a few. So this CGM is a great piece of tech.
The artificial pancreas
Additionally, if you wear a certain brand of insulin pump that is compatible with your CGM, your CGM will notify your pump that you are dropping into a low blood glucose range, and the CGM will SHUT YOUR PUMP OFF FOR YOU.
To put this in perspective, if you are not a diabetic, your pancreas and liver are always communicating with each other. They work together to raise insulin levels to cover high carbohydrate foods, and lower production of insulin when it’s not needed. In an artificial pancreas, the CGM tells the pump to shut off if it senses a low detection, saving many lives from dropping too low and becoming comatose.
Accessibility is an obstacle to technology in healthcare
Well, if you have insurance and you are covered 100% you are good to go, but for the many others out there who either have no insurance or have lesser coverage, you are looking at $600-$800 every three months just for the sensors for the CGM. You want an insulin pump, that will be $5500 just for the pump, with supplies costing anywhere from $200-$750 every three months. Lest we forget, test strips are close to $2.00 each. Add needles, syringes, and lancets, and we are talking about bill upon bill.
This CGM I mentioned has an app that allows your iPhone to gather what your current blood glucose is instead of carrying around a pager-like device. But unfortunately for all you Android users, this app is only for iPhone users, but you can certainly upgrade for one low payment of $600 for a new iPhone!
Tech is here to stay. We as engineers, health care providers, and so many other professions, make this tech better and better each day so our lives can be easier, we may live longer, and we can learn what unhealthy habits do to our bodies and minds. So, tech is really a great thing, but if it is impossible to get, how can it provide relief to those who need it the most?
Working together to improve healthcare through technology
Unfortunately, tech comes with a steep price, and if you are among the many individuals who do not have the luxury of money or health care insurance, tech may be just out of your grasp.
We as healthcare professionals must see from the perspectives of those we serve, their needs and their lifestyles. We must show compassion and empathy. What you can do is be an advocate, be present in today’s discussions, and take a stand.
We need you, we need to work together to make things like CGMs available for all diabetics. We need things like chemotherapy to be available to cancer patients who may simply pass on treatment due to not being able to afford a medication. You want to see change, help make it happen.
Stay healthy and until next time,
MS Exercise Science and Health Promotion
NASM Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist
ACE Certified Personal Trainer