“Diabetes needs urgent attention, because this condition is a silent killer,” said University of Pretoria (UP) Professor Tiaan de Jager, Dean of the Faculty of Health Sciences, at the soft launch of a diabetes management app.
The app, which was launched on World Diabetes Day and is integrated into an existing digital health platform called Pocket Clinic, aims to improve the lives of people with type 2 diabetes and assist healthcare workers to deliver better diabetes care.
“The Tshwane Insulin Programme (TIP) and Aviro Health have worked tirelessly on this app, which will allow community healthcare workers to collect vital information that they can use to flag patients who are doing poorly and refer them to clinics,” explained Professor Paul Rheeder, Director of UP’s Diabetes Research Centre. “During home and clinic visits, the glucose values of patients who are using insulin can be uploaded to the app, which has a digital insulin calculator that will advise healthcare workers on how to adjust the dose. For example, if a patient is injecting 10 units of insulin a day to control their blood glucose, the app will indicate whether they should increase or decrease the dose based on the blood glucose values.”
Healthcare workers can then remotely pass the necessary changes recommended by the app on to the doctor, who may approve the recommendation and adjust the patient’s treatment.
During the soft launch, UP Diabetes Research Centre members downloaded the app to familiarise themselves with it so that the centre can proceed with testing the app in the field next year.
According to Aviro Health CEO Dr Musaed Abrahams, the app entered into development when the company received seed funding from UP’s TuksNovation business incubator, which challenged them to develop a digital solution for diabetes. Aviro’s mission is to help healthcare workers focus on more complicated cases by providing technology-enabled services that automate workflows, improve access to quality medical information and provide digitally enabled counselling services. The company had seen success with products related to HIV.
“The TIP team indicated that prior to the development of the app, their project results showed that when you offer counselling and education to patients, that in itself can improve their lives,” Dr Abrahams said. “So Aviro came in to digitalise this project to make TIP’s work easier; this digitalisation will also help to expand to other areas beyond the Tshwane district.”
During her presentation, Aviro product manager Soraiya Verjee indicated that South Africans living with diabetes lack sufficient knowledge about their condition and that their ability to adopt the necessary changes is compromised.
“With the app, home and clinic visits can be managed through automated flows, and diabetes education content is available at the right time,” she said.
Dr Patrick Ngassa Piotie, senior programme manager at the Diabetes Research Centre, said that TIP was started four years ago to improve the lives of people living with diabetes, especially people in the Tshwane area. TIP fieldworkers conduct regular home visits to support patients with diabetes who are on insulin.
“We are convinced that one of the challenges is getting patients to adhere to treatments, to make sure that they can inject insulin and use their glucose meters accurately,” he said. “Home visits conducted by community healthcare workers are an opportunity to reinforce diabetes education and alleviate patients’ fears by answering their questions.”
Prof De Jager said the Faculty of Health Sciences and the University appreciate the work done by the Diabetes Research Centre in conjunction with everyone involved in spotlighting this condition and addressing the issues related to it.
“In commemoration of World Diabetes Day, it is important to raise public awareness of diabetes,” he said. “The theme for World Diabetes Day for 2021 to 2023 is ‘Access to diabetes care’, and the campaign’s focus this year is ‘Access to diabetes education’. Therefore, for us as an educational institution, it is not only important to educate and address this issue, but also improve access to care. Through TIP, that is exactly what we are doing.”
Read more: UP hosts World Diabetes Day event