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AI is transforming the lives of people living with diabetes

Wed 13 Feb 2019 | Arjun Panesar

Arjun Panesar, founding CEO and head of AI at Diabetes Digital Media (DDM), discusses the impact of its hugely successful Low Carb program with John Bensalhia

“The National Diabetes Audit found that one in ten patients attend structured education and six in ten don’t meet treatment targets,” says Arjun Panesar, founding CEO and Head of AI of Diabetes Digital Media (DDM). “It’s evident that a collective, scalable approach is needed to halt this epidemic.”

DDM provides evidence-based digital health technologies that improve population health including Diabetes.co.uk, the Hypo program, and Low Carb program.

Arjun explains his inspiration for founding the company. “I was inspired to start Diabetes.co.uk after my grandfather’s quadruple heart bypass and subsequent diagnosis of T2D in 2003 whilst I was studying for a degree in computing and AI. I founded the world’s first digital diabetes support community. Today, over 1.2m members use a DDM service.”

Volume to value

Developed with Dr David Unwin and the feedback of 20,000 people with diabetes, the Low Carb program is a digital, evidence-based, behaviour change platform that empowers patients with goal-focused education, support, and resources to realise their health goals.

“Education is personalised to disease, ethnicity and preferences, and supported with culturally relevant recipes and meal plans,” explains Arjun. “Patients are encouraged to track their progress and find peer-support from a community of over 390,000 members. We use the COM-B model of behaviour change, and optimise it with big data-driven AI, to establish and sustain long-term engagement and behaviour change.”

The Low Carb program offers a number of benefits for people with type 2 diabetes.

“We’re conducting a three-year study with the University of Michigan following 1,000 people with T2D on the program,” says Arjun. “Peer-reviewed, published one-year outcomes show completers achieve an average seven percent weight loss, reduce A1c by 13 mmol/mol and 40 percent who start on medication are deprescribed it. 26 percent achieve type-two remission and retention is 71 percent. The platform is scalable, engaging and effective.”

The Somerset-based primary care pilot saw 86 percent completion and an average eight percent weight-loss at 6 months. “The impact is momentous and we are on a mission to scale this platform to over 16 million patients by 2022,” comments Arjun.

“The outcomes have received critical acclaim, with DDM winning a number of awards over the last 12 months including: Diabetes Professional Care – Most Influential Technology Company of the Year, UK Business Award – Innovation, UK Content Awards – Best Technology Platform and QiC Diabetes – Highly Commended Adult Education Programme.”

The Low Carb program service has been enhanced by taking the feedback of a further 100,000 people with diabetes last year. Connectivity has been achieved with Apple HealthKit, FitBit and wearable apps for Apple Watch and Android equivalents.

Arjun says that this year will see the platform connect with the electronic health record as well as a personalised food area where users can receive food ideas, meal plans and suggestions based on population-based food AI.

“The Somerset-based primary care pilot saw 86 percent completion and an average eight percent weight-loss at 6 months”

“Connected healthcare and AI, when applied to healthcare, brings with it the ability to transform the lives of communities globally,” says Arjun. “People demand more today than ever before, and healthcare is expected to keep up in a golden era of innovation at the same time as a paradigm shift from healthcare volume to value – patient numbers to patient outcomes.”

Arjun adds that as awareness of AI in healthcare grows, so too does public expectation that it will be used to improve day-to-day experiences.

“Gene therapies, 3-D printing of human organs, liquid biopsies, robot-assisted surgeries, and voice-enabled personal assistants are now realities that are becoming more sophisticated as time goes on,” he says.

“Advancements in technology are affecting not only practiced medicine but the public perceptions and attitudes toward health, lifestyle, and what it means to be healthy. With this, comes ethics – with the long-term success of digital healthcare anchored in ensuring that we address patient and population-level ethical concerns.”

Experts featured:

Arjun Panesar

Diabetes Digital Media


AI Big Data diabetes healthcare
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