Diabetes care is at the forefront of many new innovations, from monitoring devices that synch with apps to devices that track and administer the right amount of insulin that your body requires.
Now, a media company in the U.K. is aiming to provide a unique, evidence-based digital health solution for people with long-term health conditions with published and proven health outcomes.
The company, called Diabetes Digital Media (DDM) offers two main solutions that both engage populations and optimize patient health.
Solutions of DDM include Diabetes.co.uk, the world’s largest diabetes community with over 36 million visitors a year and the Low Carb Program – a behavior change platform with peer-reviewed, published results which demonstrate 40% of patients to eliminate diabetes medication and 26% to place the condition into remission at 1-year.
“DDM is on a mission to reverse or place into remission, type 2 diabetes in 10 million patients by 2022,” Arjun Panesar, C0-founder and Head of AI at DDM, tells dLife. “Today, DDM has over 1.2 million members from 190 countries which provides unrivaled insight into the diabetes community,” he says.
Panesar believes that by analyzing the big data created across his platforms, DDM is able to develop a highly personalized treatment pathway, or journeys, which are demonstrated to be both engaging and effective through complementary academic research.
The data is also used to develop innovative AI systems which facilitate patient engagement and learning.
Panesar started Diabetes.co.uk when he was in his first year of undergraduate study at Imperial College, London. It was then that his grandfather was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes after a quadruple heart bypass.
While studying for his Master’s in Artificial Intelligence, Panesar realized there was little support for people with diabetes and launched the world’s first digital diabetes community. Since then, DDM has grown to more than 500,000 members from 300 countries.
Diabetes.co.uk has published evidence from Royal Holloway, the University of London demonstrating that the forum empowers patients.
On World Diabetes Day 2015, DDM launched the Low-Carb Program in collaboration with Dr. David Unwin who is an RCGP National Champion for Collaborative Care and Support Planning in Obesity & Diabetes, and NHS Innovator of the Year 2016.
The Low-Carb Program is an evidence-based behavior change platform for type 2 diabetes, prediabetes, and obesity. It offers users a step-by-step guide to better nutrition.
“The Low Carb Program redefines the understanding of chronic disease and wellness,” Panesar says, “in both the academic arena and in the real world.”
He says through creating intelligent, evidence-based digital health interventions that harness the power of big data and artificial intelligence, DDM provides precise and personalized care to patients, health agencies and governments worldwide.
How Does it Work?
Users in the Low Carb receive an initial 12 weeks of nutrition-focused structured education followed by an AI-driven maintenance period.
Participants are given access to nutrition focused modules, with a new module available each week. The modules are designed to help participants gradually reduce their total carbohydrate intake in order to meet their self-selected goals.
The program encourages participants to make behavior changes based on “Action Points” or behavior-change goals at the end of each module.
These goals are supported with resources that are available to download including information sheets, recipes, and suggested food substitution ideas.
The platform includes digital tools for monitoring data on several different variables including blood glucose levels, blood pressure, mood, sleep, food intake, and body weight.
Lessons are taught through videos, written content, or podcasts of varying lengths (approximately 3 to 12 minutes long).
Behaviors are maintained with tailored support, resources and ongoing education to sustain learned behaviors and engagement.
How is Low Carb Program Performing?
Peer-reviewed one-year outcomes demonstrate that the Low Carb Program is a highly personalized treatment for improving metabolic health factors – with members losing an average of 7.4kg, reducing HbA1c by 1.2% (13mmol/mol) and amazingly, 40% of patients on medication eliminate at least one medication from their regime.
What is even better, according to Panesar, is that 1 in 4 patients who complete the program is in type 2 diabetes remission at 1-year – which is pioneering for a digital health intervention and redefining the understanding of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes.
A health economic analysis places the medication “de-prescription” cost-saving at £835 per patient, per year.
According to Panesar, the program is totally customizable and personalized to demographics, disease profile and dietary preferences.
In addition, the Low Carb Program tracks blood glucose levels, weight, sleep and has a food diary, empowering patients to control their metabolic health through a lower carbohydrate approach.
Available on iOS, Android, Apple Watch, and as a web app, the Low Carb Program has over 380,000 users from 190 countries with clinically validated, peer-reviewed outcomes.
The app is available in all countries, but Panesar says is localized for U.K., Ireland, and Canada, and will be for the U.S. within the next 18 months.
“Digital technology such as the Low Carb Program is augmenting traditional healthcare in many ways, according to Panesar.
First, he says it can provide the tools, support, and resources required by patients to optimize their lifestyle and place conditions such as type 2 diabetes or prediabetes into remission.
“Digital technology is saving time through augmenting the healthcare professional/patient relationship,” the innovator says, “apps like the Low Carb Program can be provided during GPs’ 10-minute consultations and lessen the burden on the healthcare professional team.”
Panesar would say the pinnacle of evidence-based medicine is personalization, down to patient genome.
“A key benefit of digital technology is that it provides the opportunity to engage and affect people at scale, whilst maintaining the hyper-personalization of treatment.”
Panesar says the app is something that users of all age groups are able to receive. The application is personalized to patients based on their profile – which includes age, gender, and over 15 other aspects of the user’s profile – and has been optimized with the feedback of over 100,000 people with diabetes.
How is Program Retention?
Panesar says 71% of users remain engaged with the platform at 1-year. In addition, the average member who completes the program loses 7.4kg and reduces their HbA1c by 1.2% with 39% of patients placing their HbA1c under the threshold for type 2 diabetes diagnosis.
1 in 4 people places their type 2 diabetes into remission, saving the NHS over £835 per patient, per year in medication deprescription alone.
In Europe, The Low Carb Program is QISMET approved meaning it can be commissioned as structured education within the NHS, certified as an MHRA Class I medical device, complete with a CE mark, and is showcased in the NHS App Library.
The Low Carb Program has been launched in three markets – but Panesar says the impact has been internationally recognized. DDM is working on scaling the Low Carb Program solution globally with academic and business partners.
This includes enabling the Low Carb Program to be prescribed to patients with type 2 diabetes, prediabetes and obesity as a “digital therapy,” or medication and enabling healthcare professionals to monitor high-risk patients in real-time.
What does it cost?
The cost of the Low Carb platform is £14.99 a month or £69.99 a year, subscription.
In 2016/2017, the National Diabetes Audit found only 7.4% of diabetes patients attended a digital education course within 12 months of diagnosis and 60% of people with diabetes do not meet their treatment targets.
“One person dies from diabetes-related causes every 6 seconds,” Panesar emphasizes, “the tragedy is, most of these deaths are preventable.”
Images courtesy of Diabetes Digital Media.