Managing diabetes with IoT

Managing diabetes with IoT

In honour of diabetes week, Vanesther Rees, Communications Manager for the West of England Academic Health Science Network (AHSN), discusses how its upcoming Diabetes Digital Coach test bed will use digital health tools to help people better self-manage their condition.

Way before the test bed open call, there had already been a lot of talk about diabetes being one of our key areas of concern in the West. The 15 AHSNs were set up by NHS England across the regions, with the aim to drive innovation within the health service by kick-starting small projects that, if successful could go mainstream as quickly as possible. The West of England AHSN was already in discussions with both innovators and the health service community about how we might work together to tackle the challenges arising from diabetes.

One of the key reasons we decided to focus our test bed on diabetes was because people with diabetes themselves were saying education and self-management were top of their priority list.

Diabetes digital coach

The IoT innovation diabetes test bed will provide opportunities for people with diabetes to self-manage their condition. As part of the test bed, we brought together 11 different tech and evaluation partners, five of which have digital health self-management tools already on the market (such as wearable sensors and apps that monitor insulin levels).

Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) is on board and their role is to develop a central platform; the interface bringing together these various digital tools, which people with diabetes can then pick and choose from.

This platform will enable people with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes to ‘do the right thing at the right time’ to self-manage their condition. They’ll get a real time view of their own data so they can take prompt actions to prevent their condition getting worse. It will also encourage more timely and appropriate interventions from healthcare professionals, carers, friends and family – if people choose to share their data in this way. We’re also really hoping that this technology will be used to create a genuine partnership between the person with diabetes and their GP, consultant or practice nurse.

Over the next two years we will be evaluating how our platform works and how people with diabetes respond to the different digital tools, including assessing which apps enable better dialogue between patients and professionals, for instance. Once we know if the Diabetes Digital Coach approach works, we’ll be able to explore how it might be adopted more widely, both in other parts of the country and working with other long-term conditions. The Diabetes Digital Coach project is just getting started and our aim is to recruit 12,000 people (that’s 10% of people in the West of England with diabetes), which we know is ambitious, but we’re already getting a lot of interest.

A lot of participants will be recruited to the test bed through our member organisations via diabetes clinics, clinical commissioning groups and through healthcare professionals. The charity Diabetes UK is also a really important partner for this project as they are fundamental in helping us reach their West Country members.

If you live in the West and have diabetes do get in touch so we can tell you how the Diabetes Digital Coach is developing as well as ways you can get involved. Email us at or find out more at

You can follow the West of England Academic Health on Twitter @WEAHSN and don’t forget to follow IoTUK too @IoTUKNews

Vanesther Rees
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