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Supporting Diabetes Management Via Drone

Type 1 diabetes (T1D) affects people from all walks of life around the world. A challenge in managing the disease is regular access to healthcare and necessary supplies. Healthcare providers in Ireland recognized the impact of this problem even more when natural disasters such as snowstorms, hurricanes, and flooding made it difficult for patients to reach clinics for their appointments or to get medications.

As a result, researchers turned to technology as a way to potentially help patients receive the care they need. They spent more than a year working out the logistics and regulatory compliance of using drones to deliver supplies to individuals in remote areas or those cut off from access following natural disasters or other incidents such as COVID-19. The researchers had to ensure that when using the drone, they were following all aviation and aerospace regulations, as well as medical and safety regulations.

The first flight traveled around 20 km each way going from Galway, Ireland, to the Aran Islands on September 13. The Wingcopter 178 drone delivered insulin from a pharmacy to a patient’s clinician and picked up a blood sample for remote testing of HbA1c levels. This test flight demonstrated that autonomous delivery of insulin is possible.

There was a significant amount of planning, research, and collaboration that went into making the drone delivery possible, but it is a starting point for making this technology available in healthcare. The researchers needed to have backup plans in place for each step of the process, and they worked closely with a multidisciplinary team including aviation and medication regulators.

However, this successful test flight is a stepping stone toward making drone delivery a reality for patients with diabetes. This could allow patients to continue receiving life-saving insulin and other supplies even when they are unable to make it out of their home. Diabetes does not take a break during pandemics or adverse events, and there are patients who live in rural communities where access to healthcare is a challenge.

Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) is excited to see how technology continues to improve and whether drone delivery becomes a feasible option as part of diabetes management and healthcare in general. The DRC provides funding for novel, peer-reviewed research studies focused on the prevention, cure, and improved management of type 1 diabetes. To learn more and support these efforts, visit https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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Using Telehealth to Enhance Pediatric Type 1 Diabetes Management

Telehealth has come a long way in improving access to care. It has become even easier for patients to connect with healthcare providers without going to their office. Using available technology, a recent study out of the University of California, Davis (UC Davis) examined whether management of type 1 diabetes (T1D) in pediatric patients could be improved through telehealth.

Fifty-seven patients under the age of 18 participated in the study where they were connected with a member of the research team every four, six, or eight weeks via video conference for at least one year. This was in addition to quarterly clinic visits. All of the patients had suboptimal glycemic control before the study began, and most lived at least 30 miles away from the hospital.

The program was led by Stephanie Crossen, a pediatric endocrinologist at UC Davis Health. Prior to each video call, patients sent data from their diabetes devices for Crossen and her team to review. After one year, their findings showed that “83 percent of participants completed four or more diabetes visits within a year, compared to only 21 percent prior to the study,” and “mean HbA1c decreased from 10.8 to 9.6 among participants who completed the full year.”

In addition, 93 percent of participants were highly satisfied with the program, and more participants were using technology such as insulin pumps and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs). However, one area that did not change significantly was the number of diabetes-related emergency room or hospital visits.

Still, the study shows that telehealth could be a valuable intervention for children and youth with type 1 diabetes to help them better manage their disease and health outcomes. A reduction in HbA1c levels and an increase in frequency of care is encouraging. Telehealth may be one more tool for effectively supporting individuals with T1D.

Research continues to advance the understanding, treatment, and management of T1D. Though not involved with this study, the Diabetes Research Connection (DRC) supports these efforts as well by providing critical funding to early-career scientists studying the disease.  Researchers can receive up to $50K for novel, peer-reviewed projects aimed at preventing or curing type 1 diabetes, minimizing its complications, and improving quality of life for individuals living with the disease. To learn more, visit https://diabetesresearchconnection.org.

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