Why we support NHS England’s calls for interoperable diabetes tech by Simon O’Neill

Yesterday NHS England and NHSX jointly wrote to diabetes technology manufacturers, calling for devices that store patient data, such as the Abbott Flash glucose monitor, to be interoperable. At Diabetes UK we strongly support their call.

Interoperability describes software and computer systems that are able to share and make use of the information they hold. In the context of diabetes, when tech users are able to upload the data from their wearable devices, such as Flash or the various available continuous glucose monitors (CGM), to shared platforms, we’ve seen benefits to patients’ self-management and to clinicians’ ability to provide better, more personalised care and advice.

The letter was prompted by a recent announcement from Abbott that Flash users would no longer be able to upload their data to the Diasend (Glooko) platform – a platform that allows data sharing between people living with diabetes and their clinicians.

In the NHS, wearable devices that can upload the data they store to the same systems is vital. As the letter from NHS England and NHSX states, non-interoperability “creates unnecessary work and cost” for the NHS and clinicians. Further, non-interoperable diabetes technology risks entrenching the postcode lottery in access to this technology, as commissioners are forced to reduce the number of devices available to patients in order to reduce the number of systems they have to pay for. We believe that people should have choice in the technology they use and interoperable diabetes technology is a hugely important part of making this choice a reality.

Our Fight for Flash campaign highlighted a much wider issue surrounding access to diabetes technology. We are currently surveying people living with and affected by diabetes about their attitudes and experiences in accessing diabetes technology and we plan to conduct more research with healthcare professionals, and others in the system who are responsible for access to diabetes technology, in order to make sure we have a detailed picture of the problem and how it can be improved. The insight we gather will help inform our future influencing and campaigning work in this vital area.

Closed loop systems (otherwise known as the “artificial pancreas”) are now on the horizon.  These could be truly transformative for people with diabetes.  In order to speed the availability of licensed closed-loop systems within the NHS, we encourage technology manufacturers to ensure the products they develop are more responsive to the needs of people living with diabetes; they can do this by ensuring interoperability between devices.

We urge manufacturers to take up the offer of working with the NHS to develop a standard for interoperability; to do so will put the needs of people living with diabetes first and ensure that diabetes technology is fit both for the future of diabetes care, and for the NHS.

Have your say on diabetes technology by completing our survey here.

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