Bio-feedback technology, patient empowerment and healthier living

New advances in “bio-feedback” technology are leading to better patient empowerment and overall health. Where ordinarily health consultants, be it doctors, nurses, dieticians or personal trainers, recommend new medicine or changes in diet on the basis of reasoned guesses and mixed evidence, now, using technology (such as “wearables” or medical monitoring devices), we can track exactly what we need and enhance our motivation to look after ourselves.

Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) affects around 3.5 million people in the UK. It is a condition in which the body is unable to control blood sugar levels. The complications of diabetes can be blindness, kidney disease and heart disease and there is no cure. The only way to avoid these complications is through tight control of blood sugar levels.

Diabetics are able to control their blood sugar levels through oral and injectable medication. In the case of Type 1 diabetes, which is dependent on insulin injections, changes related to diet, exercise and stress can lead to fluctuations in the blood sugar levels and can make tight control extremely difficult. The only way to counteract this is by regular ‘finger-pricking’ to check for sugar levels in the blood and adjusting the insulin dosages. This is like balancing old weighing-scales which can be time-consuming and frustrating.

The problem has always been that without the full picture of blood sugar levels at every moment, it is almost impossible to maintain this tight range of blood sugar levels.

Over the past few years, a series of bio-feedback technology has emerged in the type 1 diabetes market, known as continuous blood glucose (CGM) monitors. The Freestyle Libre, a new product to the EU market, operates through a sensor (a small piece the size of a 2 pence coin attached to the body) and a scanning monitor (the size of an iphone). It empowers patients to continuously monitor their sugar levels and understand their bodies in a way unlike anything before.

The Freestyle Libre is currently not available on the NHS and, in the UK private markets, demand has so outstripped supply that individuals have started selling the products online at inflated prices. It is a sign and a call for the NHS to embrace this new wave of technology in monitoring devices in prescriptions and exponentially benefit from patients treating themselves. You can just forget inexcusable wait-times and complications from poor treatment of health conditions across the board. Bio-feedback technology is the answer to a universally healthier nation and a more economic NHS.

Dr Tim Lebens, a private GP London is a doctor who offers this service.