How data can reduce the burden of diabetes treatment on the NHS

Earlier this month, it was announced that diabetes is costing the NHS nearly £10 billion a year. Rising by 60% in the last decade, three million people in the UK are now suffering from the disease. However, interestingly, in order to try and help reduce this number, medical experts have called for radical changes to people’s lifestyles to be made.

Whilst the disease cannot be cured, treatment and changes to lifestyle can have a dramatic impact upon controlling symptoms and improving quality of life. Initiatives such as Google’s diabetes smart lens, glucose test strips and even wearable devices and mobile diabetes’ apps are already helping patients monitor glucose levels, blood pressure and insulin injections. But what more can be done to ease pressures on the NHS?

With the costs on the NHS rising as a result of the increasing number of diabetes patients, there is now a greater urgency than ever before for new prevention and treatment methods. With diabetes set to bankrupt the NHS, it’s important for this action to be taken now.

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Here are my three key recommendations to help reduce this burden on the NHS:

Adopt a Wellness Model – Whilst changing lifestyles and adopting tools to monitor glucose levels will certainly help, 80% of the NHS cost is being spent on managing avoidable complications, which could be dramatically reduced if a wellness approach was taken.

The healthcare system needs to be better suited to dealing with the increase in long-term Non Communicable Diseases – diseases which require prolonged treatment rather than acute episodes that require hospitalisation.

As a result, this suggested ‘Wellness Model’ requires a proactive and personalised approach, rather than a reactive ‘illness driven’ one. There must be a fundamental change within the culture to shift the NHS’s ambitions.

Embrace technological change – The aim of the wellness approach is to increase efficiency by harnessing the power of information technology and implementing the necessary technological – and cultural changes in the health service.

The lack of technology adoption, such as electronic records and predictive analytics, is contributing to these failures and financial inefficiencies. Better use of patient, social, genetic data, to anticipate illness and treat it pre-emptively will help to identify the most effective care pathways for patients.

Monitor and collaborate – With poorly managed diabetes leading to amputation, heart attacks and strokes, using data can not only help make sufficient cost savings in the long run, but also enable earlier detection and in some cases prevention. By effectively monitoring patient and treatment outcomes, as well as collaborating on best practices, inefficiencies can be tackled sustainably in the long-term and deliver more personalised patient care.

Significant efficiencies to processes, costs and patient care will be seen as a result and monitoring patients using data will also dramatically improve care management. By learning from collaboration, it can be possible to improve the service to patients.

GPs, patients and secondary care professionals in Scotland have collaborated to treat diabetes over a period of 20 years. In this case, informatics technology is used to track patients’ treatment and treatment outcomes which are carefully monitored and managed.

This helps to reduce the severity of the condition, and therefore reduce the likelihood of foot ulcers or amputations. Scotland is just one example that has used informatics technology to provide an integrated care model for the treatment of diabetes, resulting in a 40.7% fall in major amputations and 30 percent fall in total amputations.

Can informatics technology stop the NHS diabetes bankruptcy?

If improvements made in Scotland were also made here in the UK, this could result in saving the NHS £37 million per annum from reduced amputations alone.

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In fact, up to £66 billion could be saved across the NHS per year according to our suggestions regarding the better use of information in our Sustaining Universal Healthcare: Making better use of information report.

However, these changes need to be driven by NHS management and move from being more focused on capturing and understanding data to deliver more personalised and preventative treatment, aided by information technology. If no action is taken, the result will be disastrous for the NHS.

This is why we need to get serious now about using data to tackle diabetes. A preventative approach will put us in good stead of getting rid of the NHS diabetes bankruptcy.

Sourced from James Norman, UK Public Sector CIO, EMC

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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