The Promise of Digital Tools: A roadmap for apps

Digital technologies are driving significant changes in healthcare, offering new solutions to assist in preventing, diagnosing, and treating chronic diseases. Diabetes is ideally suited to benefit from these types of digital tools, given it is a largely a self-managed condition, and especially data-driven. 

The following document and series of recommendations, compiled by a representative group of the European Diabetes Forum consisting of healthcare professionals (HCPs), researchers, industry representatives, and people with diabetes, focuses on one crucial aspect of this digital revolution: mobile health applications, or “apps.”

Mobile apps is a burgeoning field of innovation in healthcare with enormous potential both to help people with diabetes track the multitude of information related to their condition, while also facilitating a more informed and data-driven approach to decision-making from HCPs.

The following document examines some of general benefits of apps in diabetes, before delving into a more specific consideration of the role of medical apps. Medical apps are, appropriately, more tightly regulated and therefore require policy interventions, as they go beyond purposes of lifestyle, motivational, or educational support, and play a role in monitoring, treating, or managing diabetes.

The integration of medical apps into diabetes care poses many challenges. There are many new apps on the marketplace, but regulations and policy solutions must catch up to keep pace with the new technology. Countries are only now beginning to establish further procedures that allow for review, monitoring, and better integration of medical apps into clinical pathways.

The goal of public policy should be to nurture a responsible and responsive environment that unlocks the positive potential of digital innovation, one that puts the needs of people with diabetes first. To realise the potential of mobile apps, two conditions must be in place: apps must be easily available and accessible to people with diabetes and HCPs, and they should meet high standards of effectiveness and quality.

The recommendations that follow offer guidance and best practice examples on developing a user-centred app, on facilitating an access pathway for apps, and on supporting a swift and appropriate integration of medical apps into health systems.

In a continent as diverse as Europe, policy is not a one-size fits all proposition. But new solutions are needed to improve care and outcomes for people with diabetes, and apps offer enormous promise to give people with diabetes and HCPs alike the tools they need to better manage this condition.