Dr. Sanjiv Agarwal is the founder of Diabetacare, the CEO of teleradiology company 4 Ways Healthcare and has been an NHS consultant for the past 20 years
DHA’s Emily Hughes recently spoke to Agarwal about Diabetacare’s services and its plans to expand into the UK.
Diabetacare is a medtech start-up that helps people manage their diabetes through the use of technology and big data.
It provides a diabetes monitoring and care service that has both connected devices as well as a cloud-based solution which both doctors and patients can access.
Agarwal said: “When I was looking at the diabetes model, I thought, what are the challenges which we are facing with diabetes?
“First of all there is a definite problem with awareness of diabetes among the population and once they become aware they have it, then acceptance of the disease, at least for the first few years, becomes a challenge and it is hard to monitor it.”
He went on to say that other issues for patients are due to not having, “access to the right care at the right place,” as most diabetes services require the patient to go to different places at different times to have readings and blood taken.
He said: “Patients need the whole pathway done in one type of setting, rather than in different and broken pathways. Yet, the most important issue to be addressed for diabetes patients is adherence to medication and general disease monitoring.
“Nobody dies of diabetes as such but they do die of complications due to diabetes.”
Agarwal explained that Diabetacare decided to use technology to tackle the initial screening process, monitoring after diagnosis and communication with the patient.
Diabetacare enables the doctor or nurse to take patient readings using the companies’ glucometers and blood pressure monitors, which are connected to the GH central diabetes net and capture the data immediately.
Agarwal said: “The data is available to the GP within about 90 minutes of doing the tests, so patients can pretty much get everything there and then, rather than going to several different places at different times for different things.”
He continued: “There are two main parameters which are key in diabetes management, one is control of blood glucose and the other is control of blood pressure, so what we did was we partnered with Vodafone in order to connect patients to this data.
“We developed our own smart glucometer and blood pressure monitoring devices for patients which use the Vodafone simcards to send any recorded data directly to the patient’s record.
“It is an automatic sim-enabled transmission of the data to the record which does not need the paitent’s input through any smart phone or app.”
The data, which goes directly from the device to the patient’s record in the cloud, can then be accessed by health professionals and allows them to monitor the patient without them having to repeatedly visit GP surgeries.
The Diabetacare system also allows healthcare professionals to “nudge” patients who are on the system though a phone call, SMS/text or the Diabetacare app.
Agarwal said Diabetacare, “Enables health professionals to nudge their patients in order to improve their glycaemia or blood pressure, advise them to attend the doctors or advise them about their adherence to their medication.
“So the whole loop of 360 degree diabetes care comes in from the screening, intervention in the clinic, to monitoring, to communication.”
When asked why Diabetacare is choosing to expand into the UK Agarwal pointed out that Diabetacare is actually a UK based company and has already run a 500 patient pilot in the West Midlands.
Agarwal said: “We started in India as we wanted to develop the technology there and completely test it out but had always planned that when the appropriate time came it would be rolled it out in the UK.
“The service was being set-up keeping the UK in mind and the technology has got all NICE (National Institute for Health and Care Excellence) guidance built into it so its built around the UK guidelines.”
However, as Agarwal has already developed 4 Ways Healthcare he is aware that taking the company into a state funded healthcare system, “is not going to be easy.
“I used to run a radiology venture, which was one of the largest of its kind in the UK, and it took me nearly three years to get that on track but once you have a track-record it becomes easier.
“So again we know the market and it could be difficult, it could be challenging but we are prepared for that.”
Yet, he has designed the system with both patients and doctors in mind, so is not worried about professional uptake being an issue.
He said: “Because I am myself a doctor, the technology which we have created is designed so that there is no technology lump on either the doctor or patient’s side.
“The main technology burden is taken by the staff at the GP surgery, either a practise nurse or a specialist diabetes nurse, but the training for the technology is also provided by Diabetacare.
To conclude the interview Agarwal said: “Technology can play a major role in health through increasing patients adherence and everyone in the world, not only in the UK, but the whole globe, are facing a big issue with adherence to medication.”