Challenge and solution
Diabetes is a growing concern globally: it is already a leading cause of death and its prevalence is rapidly increasing worldwide. The number of diabetics is forecast to rise from 422 million in 2016 to 642 million in 2040. Consequently, the total diabetes-related health expenditure is also set to rise at a rate of 19.2% to €685 billion by 2040. In Europe, diabetes affects 58 million people and costs 145 billion per annum.
In 2016, the global diabetes market worth € 68.5 billion, of which 13.4% were spent in monitoring. Diabetes monitoring includes measuring and logging blood glucose levels, analysing and contextualising the information, and sharing it with care providers. In the current era of digital health, big data and value-based medicine, the diabetes monitoring market is evolving very fast, and has great potential to reduce the social and economic burden of the disease. This will likely contribute to increase the share of monitoring in the diabetes market, which was forecast to duplicate its value by 2022 (€ 139 billion).
The burden of diabetes management
Effective diabetes management requires a highly-disciplined routine of glucose monitoring. For patients with type 1 diabetes (T1D) and insulin-dependent type 2 diabetes (T2D), managing the disease is even more demanding as they have to inject insulin and test glucose levels at least 4 times per day – tighter control of glucose levels is fundamental because insulin therapy increases the risk of severe hypoglycaemia. A survey from the International Diabetes Foundation (IDF) showed that in Europe there was low adherence to medication by diabetic patients (less than 20% in some studies) and indicates that the most common barriers to achieving optimal health are not only the poor adherence to medication or lifestyle change, but also limited patient/family skills to properly manage diabetes, poor empowerment of persons with diabetes and poor family education.2 The problem is aggravated by the fact that approximately 40% of diabetes patients are >65 years-old, and older patients usually have additional problems conditioning treatment adherence and self-management of the disease (e.g., multi-medication, failing eyesight, reduced mobility or failing cognitive capacity).
Common insulin administration errors and potential consequences
Miscalculations and lapses in insulin administration can be very harmful to patients. Too little insulin can put blood glucose above threshold levels causing hyperglycaemia, whereas an overdose of insulin can lead to hypoglycaemia. It is well known that hypo events can result in comma or even death, but the damages that can be caused by hyperglycaemic events are not so well recognised – high blood glucose levels for extended periods of time can cause cardiovascular disease and damages to nerves, kidneys and retina (diabetes retinopathy). Moreover, as people grow older with diabetes, they start suffering from memory loss. One of Medilync’s goals is to help these patients remember what to do, so they can keep on track with their target glucose levels.
A study sponsored by Novo Nordisk revealed that errors in insulin administration are frequent, even in the primary care setting. It also indicated that up to 50% of all dosage errors were among the age 60 and older population.
Our mission: empowering patients and sharing responsibilities
The idea behind the creation of our company arose many years ago, when the father of one of our co-founders, diabetic for more than 40 years, was diagnosed with short-term memory problems. The combination of these two disorders stressed the importance of a correct disease management. Looking for a solution to his father’s problem, he realised that there was no tool on the market truly solving the problems of treatment adherence in patients with diabetes. After several months of research, during which several interviews with diabetes experts from Iceland and the UK were conducted, our co-founder started to understand that only a multi-disciplinary approach could help to overcome the three main reasons for the current poor management of diabetes:
1) Lack of patient & family engagement
2) Lack of simplicity of care management
3) Poor ongoing communication between patient and providers between episodes of care
To address these problems, we created Medilync in 2012, in Iceland. Our award-winning start-up is composed of an outstanding team with extensive experience in machine learning, information technology, clinical practice and business. Current partnerships with local public health institutions (e.g., National University Hospital System of Iceland) and global IT leaders (e.g., Microsoft) demonstrate our strong commitment to revolutionise the management of diabetes by insulin-dependent patients and their doctors and caregivers.