During a panel discussion at Benefits Canada’s 2024 Vancouver Benefits Summit in May, three experts discussed the role of virtual management platforms in helping Canadians with diabetes manage their condition.

According to Diabetes Canada, roughly 12 million Canadians live with type 1, type 2 or prediabetes. Roughly a quarter of Canadians don’t have access to a primary physician, meaning many with diabetes don’t know they have it or are struggling to manage their glucose levels without support, said Sarah Blunden, senior medical affairs manager at Dexcom Canada (pictured second from left). Poor glucose management puts patients at risk of health complications like hypoglycemia.

A host of innovators, entrepreneurs and health-care practitioners are developing “connected” diabetes care platforms that provide personalized virtual care for diabetes patients with customized interventions and coaching and real-time glucose monitoring, said Chris Goguen, lead for access and partnership at Dexcom Canada and the moderator of the panel (pictured far left).

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Integrating multiple connected diabetes platforms is “quite seamless” with app integration technologies. “From a workplace and employer standpoint, these solutions can provide virtual care 24-7 ecosystems to support your employees and their families with diabetes,” he said.

Dexcom’s own continuous glucose monitor allows diabetes patients to monitor their glucose levels in real-time, with trend arrows, alerts and alarms for if glucose levels drop or spike into worrying territory. The device is cloud-connected and can be accessed remotely by the patient’s physician.

Also speaking during the panel, Jeff Alfonsi, a specialist in internal medicine, clinical pharmacology and toxicology, physician and assistant professor at the University of Toronto (pictured second from right), said he developed the app RxFood to highlight the role of nutrition in managing diabetes. Users can take a photo of the food on their plate and receive information on the macronutrients it contains and whether it contributes to managing their condition. The app also provides more general information on nutrition. An initial study conducted at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto found the app could help improve diabetes control and patient self-management.

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“Patients living with type 1 diabetes said this is a huge pain point, to understand how many carbohydrates are in their food, because they have to dose their insulin based on that. We wanted to take it a step further and start giving broader insights. You could probably eat 2,000 calories infinite ways. We wanted to start providing information on different types of carbohydrates, fats and proteins and slowly nudge people on making those changes.”

When connected with a continuous glucose monitor, RxFood can show how someone’s body responded to the food they ate. “It’s a really, really powerful motivator,” he said.

Brendan Byrne, a physician and chief medical officer at LifestyleRx (pictured far right), said the company’s app seeks to help diabetes patients make lifestyle changes, adding these changes are “probably our strongest tool” in addressing insulin resistance in type 2 diabetes patients. Insulin resistance is generally a result of fat in the liver. The app includes virtual physician visits, virtual group sessions, self-assessment tools, a library of exercises and personal health reports. It integrates with the patient’s CGM and other diabetes care apps. Byrne said the app has helped patients reduce their A1C levels and improve their overall diabetes self-management.

Read more coverage of the 2024 Vancouver Benefits Summit.