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Technology reshaping diabetes market

Technology reshaping diabetes market

Diabetes care is surpassing other HME segments like complex rehab and respiratory in technology deployment. With developments like digital glucose monitoring and other tools, the market has made great strides in automating and reshaping disease management for diabetes patients, specialists in the field say.

“The technology available to support people living with Type 1 diabetes has changed dramatically – specifically, automated technology helps reduce some of the decision-making patients previously had to manage on their own,” said Julie Foster, vice president of customer experience at Northridge, Calif.-based Medtronic Diabetes.

Citing a 2014 article by Stanford Medicine, Foster described how Type 1 diabetes requires “an astonishing number of health-related decisions – about 180 per day.” But she adds that patients’ vigilant monitoring of their daytime blood sugar, food intake, insulin and activity levels is perhaps less exhausting than the worries they face about getting a safe night’s sleep.

“During sleep, diabetics often fail to sense when their blood glucose veers too low, [which] can cause seizures and even, in rare cases, death,” the article stated. Therefore, technological advancement assists in reducing the mental burden that comes along with the disease, Foster said.

To address the issue, Medtronic developed the MiniMed 770G insulin pump system, which automatically adjusts background insulin every five minutes. Using real-time glucose readings, the system calculates a personalized amount of insulin to deliver based on the user’s needs. The system connects directly with a compatible smartphone, allowing sugar trends and insulin delivery to be viewed on the go.

“The rapid evolution of technology has been reshaping patient care for some time but COVID-19 in particular has accelerated this evolution,” said Mary Puncochar, head of Parsippany, N.J.-based Ascensia Diabetes Care’s US Region. “It has forced many to rethink how we manage chronic conditions such as diabetes, particularly with the use of telemedicine.”

Puncochar called the industry’s rapid adoption of new technologies and digital initiatives “astounding” and said “it is likely to have a lasting positive impact on treatment plans for people with diabetes, as we continue to learn how technology can improve and simplify care.”

To be sure, digital technologies for diabetes have arrived in leaps and bounds, and patients worldwide are now equipped with the digital tools to record key measurements, such as continuous glucose monitoring and blood glucose monitoring, and share them with healthcare professionals, Puncochar said.

“In response, companies have been adapting these tools to increase functionality and make this process as seamless as possible,” she said. “Furthermore, these digital tools are starting to facilitate the personalization of management and helping to understand the tailored needs of patients is critical. However, glucose monitoring is just one aspect of diabetes management, and it is important to bring together other elements such as sleep, diet, and mental health as part of a holistic monitoring approach in order to improve all areas of diabetes management.”

If the shoe fits

Diabetic footwear continues to be a critical product for people with diabetes, even though reimbursement is sporadic, causing some HME providers to drop the business, thereby limiting patient access, said Stephen O’Hare, president of Marietta, Ga.-based Pedors Shoes.

“However, for those providers that can navigate the reimbursement minefield, there exists a pent-up demand for this service,” he said. “Those providers that market their services to their referral network will see that shoes are in fact a viable revenue stream.”

Demand for specialty shoes isn’t limited to diabetics, O’Hare said, citing patients with lymphedema and venous insufficiency as prospective customers as well. In fact, he said when approaching referral sources, a provider’s context on the various conditions requiring clinical footwear and compression hosiery will offer a competitive advantage from wide range of referrals.

To facilitate patient referrals, Pedors offers a free product reference guide for providers to send practitioners about their scope of footwear lines and services.

Beyond the professional community as a source of business, diabetic patients themselves have become much more proactive in searching for specialty shoes, socks, insoles, orthotics, and lotions and creams, said Christopher Case, “marketing guy” for Brewster, N.Y.-based Pedifix.

The key to attracting these clients, Case said, is to carry a wide range of diabetes products.

“Many providers do so now to some extent,” he said. “Others haven’t yet discovered the potential profitability of offering a broader assortment, beyond traditional supplies like test strips. With the right assortment, HME retailers can grow their sales, profits and customer loyalty with diabetic product
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