I joined tuDiabetes back in 2009 and I’ve been fortunate to have gotten to really know lots of people in this community. And while I feel like I know a lot of people here and am close, nothing beats meeting someone in person. Until this week, I’d never had the chance to meet Manny, but I finally have. I don’t really post blogs, but I thought I would report back to you all my “Adventures with Manny.”
This week, Joslin hosted a conference “Diabetes Innovation 2012”, bringing together representatives of diverse communities involved with diabetes. It was held right near where I live and work. The alignment of planets happened and I was able to attend the conference with the help of Manny and Joslin (shout out to all the helpful staff at Joslin, many thanks). I spent two days in the wake of Manny and it was a life changing event. I got a chance to talk with Manny on a personal level. Even though we come from seemingly very different backgrounds, we actually share a surprising amount in common. I met a number of Manny’s friends who all share a common bond and calling. I knew Manny was a dynamic individual, but it wasn’t until I met him that I really felt his passion and appreciated how really good he was at social networking. I stood alone with one of his friends during one reception and we just watched as Manny, surrounded by a dozen people, worked his magic. People really listen to Manny and he has an important message.
Now, on to the conference. I stayed for two days and had a chance to meet a lot of people. I met Amy Tenderich of DiabetesMine. Amy also wrote about her experience at the conference. Amy, as always, reminded the audience that it is about the patients, about their quality of life and to not forget that. I met people like Peter Nerothin of InsulinDependence, Merith Basey of Ayuda and Adam Kaufman of dLife (Adam is also on the DHF board). But the really interesting part was talking to the other participants, healthcare providers, people from Joslin, government representatives (CDC, NIH, CMS, FDA, ...), the payers (insurance companies, medicare, …) and most surprising industry (Target, McDs, CVS and Walgreens). There were some clear themes. This wasn’t a conference about technical research topics, it was about new collaborative efforts. A lot of topics focused on information technology, sharing information in new ways, advancing the use of health records, new tools for mobile applications, sharing information between patients, providers and everyone. There was highlighting of the movement of IT into mobile applications, all stuff that is great, but stuff I “expect.”
There was a lot of hoopla about the Diabetes Prevention Program (DPP). It is clear that our government and healthcare system has decided that this program, cutting calories and fat and getting people to exercise will “prevent” an obesity and diabetes epidemic. The train has apparently left the station and they want everyone to get on board. I am not so happy with the DPP and in conversations with others; it is clear there are problems. I do think it will help, but it is oversold and may have some harmful impact. I clearly wish the program at least taught the participants that carbs raise your blood sugar, instead the participants (many who will go on to be diagnosed with overt diabetes anyway) are left believing that fat is the culprit. I was heartened to see a later talk which presented an “app” to help track and reduce calories that one of the participants got up and challenged the standard obesity modeling invoking the name “Gary Taubes.”
There was a clear of theme of patient centered care. We have heard this term used for years, the medical community has used to term to describe how they will transform their focus onto the patient rather than on their specialty. But we are now hearing a change to really involve and focus on the patient as a leading voice in healthcare. We heard from advocates like E-PatientDavewho has advocated that patients should own their health information, have a right to see it and make sure it is accurate and that patients should be “empowered.” This them of patient empowerment was certainly heard. We always have heard complaints that patients are “non-compliant.” I don’t think I heard that term at this conference, but I did hear a log about patients being “empowered.”
The highlight of the conference for me was of course was the recognized role of patients. We certainly heard that on the panel that Manny took part in. On the panel were Manny, Dr. Timothy Moore of WebMD, Dan Hickey, of Alliance Health Networks, Amy Tenderich of DiabetesMine and Adam Kaufman of Dlife. You can see Manny and Adam at the left. That panel really started the conversation on social media and support networks. I think just a year or two ago, most health professionals would routinely discount social media as a source of bad information and only useful for people who have depression or coping problems. But I do smell a change in the wind. It is clear that health networks, providers of services as well as payers like insurance companies see the value proposition of social media. The improved outcomes are still anecdotal, but they are compelling. Many of the people I talked with at the conference seemed to have a changed attitude. Many took notes, took Manny’s card and said they would be recommending that their patients make connections through social media.
If you enjoyed this blog, I hope you will click through to "Adventures with Manny (part 2)" where I will describe Manny's keynote and a surprise visit with a special member.