Connected BGM: An innovative approach to advancing access in diabetes care

Updated on April 22, 2024

Blood glucose monitoring has been around for over four decades, but does it have the power to tip the scales of current healthcare inequities? 

The big imbalance

There is nothing “fair” about diabetes. Of the estimated 537 million adults aged 20–79 years living with diabetes worldwide, about three-quarters live in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). And while blood glucose meters (BGM) offer an affordable, easy-to-use and accurate solution for the daily management of this chronic condition, this essential part of care remains out of reach to the majority of people with diabetes in these regions.

Keeping blood glucose levels in range is fundamental to reducing short-term as well as long-term diabetes-related complications, including hypo- and hyperglycaemia, diabetes ketoacidosis, mental health struggles such as diabetes distress, and cardiovascular disease. The important role of BGM in everyday diabetes management is undisputed; the World Health Organization even refers to the meter as a “priority medical device,” and part of their targets for 2030 is for every person with diabetes to have access to affordable BGM. 

To help those whose most basic diabetes needs aren’t being met, public–private partnerships are increasing access to life-saving diabetes diagnoses, medicines and daily management tools like BGM. That’s one of the important pillars. 

Another is enlisting innovation and technology to make sure these solutions have more impact.

Digitalisation can bring out the best in the tools that we already have  – and this is especially true for the trusted, well-established BGM. When a blood glucose meter is connected to a digital solution such as a diabetes management app that can track, collect, share and make sense of therapy data, it can contribute to improving health outcomes and reducing the burden on the healthcare system. 

A power-up for BGM: Benefits for people with diabetes 

For people with diabetes (PwD), living with a chronic condition that never takes a break can be an overwhelming daily struggle. Even though the development of BGM was integral to the evolution of diabetes management and has been the standard of care for decades, one of the main stressors of living with diabetes is keeping track of all the glucose data collected by the BGM. A recent study of PwD in rural Rwanda revealed that, although two-thirds of participants showed good adherence to self-monitoring of blood glucose using a BGM, less than a third of participants were as consistent with recording their results in a logbook. 

Can anything be done differently to address the gap? According to a real-world data analysis presented at  ATTD in 2023, connecting a BGM to a mobile health app like mySugr that automatically tracks the measured glucose can significantly improve glycaemic management. Moreover, the latest research examining the benefits of a “smart”  BGM confirmed that digitally recorded values reduced instances of diabetes distress in addition to severe hypo- and hyperglycaemia. The improved data documentation and visualisation has not only been shown to enhance self-monitoring and therapy adherence, but also to improve understanding of the condition and reduce clinical inertia — all adding up to a better future for PwD.

Connecting people with people: Benefits for clinicians

For healthcare providers (HCPs), the diabetes epidemic means increasing workloads combined with growing pressure to treat more people in less time with optimal outcomes. In some LMICs like e.g. India, there is often only one HCP per 11,000 patients! Compounding this problem, PwD in low-resource regions often have to travel vast distances to get to a clinic for a diabetes check-up. Because making these trips is expensive and time consuming, it often leads to people postponing or avoiding a visit to the clinic, leaving their HCPs powerless to help. 

This is where connected BGM really shines.

Not only does the technology support accessibility to care by making remote consultations possible, but it can also improve the quality of face-to-face interactions. Better insights lead to better treatment and outcomes, and with the new integrated digital solutions providing HCPs with a full overview of their patient’s data, they’re able to make more personalised, efficient therapy adaptations for each individual. Connected BGMs can therefore allow for proactive management of diabetes rather than reactive, with the ability to make more frequent and timely adjustments to treatment.

But the power of personalisation presented by connected BGM isn’t just good for individuals; it’s good for all stakeholders involved. At the moment, the costs attributed to diabetes on a global level are 966 billion USD — showing an increase of 316% over the past 15 years. These costs are expected to go up to 1,054 billion USD by 2045. However, with the deeper insights from connected BGM that support the tailoring of treatment decisions, it’ll become easier to get the right mix of solutions to the right person at the right time for the prevention of diabetes-related complications, ultimately easing the burden on individuals, HCPs, healthcare systems and society. 

Can connected BGM be the gamechanger we need?

Diabetes is one of the most expensive chronic conditions in the world. As numbers continue to rise – with about 643 million cases expected by 2030 – it has become clear that only a cost-effective therapy management will be able to provide a long-term and sustainable solution. Although newer technologies such as continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) can make life even easier for some people with diabetes, BGM will remain an affordable and trusted option for many individuals and healthcare systems around the globe.

But access isn’t just about technology. Education, advocacy, patient engagement, economic viability and capacity building are all instrumental in shaping sustainable care structures. Connected BGM addresses some of these variables through its ability to increase patient engagement and understanding while enabling further personalisation, and we’re just at the beginning of what’s possible for this easy-to-use and reliable tool.

As we head towards 2030, bringing the best care to the growing number of people living with diabetes will require involvement from all sides: industry, governments, clinicians and healthcare systems. Technology may only be one part of the solution, but it’ll undoubtedly become a crucial factor in making access to care more “fair.” By keeping technology open and interoperable and ensuring it continues to connect healthcare professionals, people with diabetes and systems to leverage the power of data, we’ll get closer to overcoming disparities so we can support people with diabetes, no matter where they live.      

Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar Roche
Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar
Global Head of Patient Solutions at Roche Diabetes Care

Rodrigo has more than 18 years of experience in the pharmaceutical industry, covering a wide variety of leadership roles across geographies in Latin America and Europe for Roche Pharma, Diagnostics and Diabetes Care. He is passionate about bringing life-changing pharmaceutical and diagnostics solutions to patients. Rodrigo joined Roche in 2004 and moved to Roche Diabetes Care in 2018 as Country Manager Mexico, with increasing responsibilities as Sub Regional Head. He also acted as Roche Diabetes Care General Manager for Italy prior to his current role of Head of Roche Diabetes Care Global Patient Solutions.