John Downey, Chief Commercial Officer, reflects on his appointment to the New England ADA community leadership board, the need for greater diabetes awareness and the role technology plays in treating individuals who need glycemic support.
How did you first become involved with ADA?
I've been in the healthcare space for more than 20 years, so I was generally aware of the organization. When I joined Glytec in October 2019, the company had just wrapped up participating in the ADA Step Out Walk to Stop Diabetes campaign. It’s an incredible program that brings people together to raise funds and awareness for those living with diabetes, and 2021 will mark the fundraiser’s 30th year.
While that was one of my first true interactions with the ADA, it certainly wasn't my last. I spent my first few weeks at Glytec scouring the ADA website, exploring the vast research, standards of care documentation and general statistics and information on diabetes. The site is a treasure trove of information for individuals living with diabetes and the doctors, nurses, caregivers and workers who help support the broader community.
As I read beyond the information and into the organization's mission, I knew I wanted to dedicate time to the ADA and volunteer in some capacity.
What does it mean to you to partner with the ADA in its mission to improve the lives of the millions of Americans living with diabetes?
As many of you know, more than 1.4 million individuals in New England live with diabetes, and on a national scale, that number surpasses 34 million. To join one of the leading authoritative bodies in the diabetes space to help drive research, education, awareness and support for a disease that touches so many lives across the U.S. is truly an honor.
I think my timing of joining the community leadership board comes at a pivotal time in diabetes and glycemic management too. The coronavirus pandemic put the spotlight on diabetes like never before. To be honest, it seems that the general population had become desensitized to diabetes before the pandemic. While we understood what the disease entailed, we didn't fully appreciate how vital proper blood sugar management was for people. For instance, Glytec research found a seven-time mortality rate for individuals who had COVID-19 and were in glycemic disarray. Poor blood glucose management can have similar impacts across other disease states, producing adverse side effects if it's not managed correctly.
That's what stands out the most to me. At the end of the day, for a treatment that’s come so far, we still have a long way to go. We need to make it easier for people to access care, obtain information, understand technology and realize there is a better way to live with diabetes.
As a newly appointed community leadership board member, what do you hope to achieve in this role?
It all comes down to awareness. The more I engaged with the ADA community and other working groups, the more I realized people understood what the condition means but not necessarily the best way to treat it.
For example, diabetes kills more Americans every year than AIDS and breast cancer combined. It’s also estimated that a leg is amputated every 30 seconds, and 85% of those amputations are a result of diabetes complications. Those are shocking statistics for a disease state that can be effectively managed with medications, technology and standardization. Even though one in seven healthcare dollars goes to treating patients with diabetes or insulin needs, we still have these massively preventable problems.
So I think raising the level of awareness and education for diabetes is paramount. We need to do better for patients, whether that's access to care, better inpatient and outpatient technology, or the myriad of other options. We also need to push providers to stop using outdated protocols and processes to treat diabetes on the inpatient side. Essentially, that’s what I'm hoping to achieve in this new role.
This new position forces me to advocate beyond Glytec, eGMS, and Glucommander and understand the broader diabetes landscape. The ADA provides so much support to the diabetes community at large that I'm excited to find ways to help amplify their messages.
What role do you see technology playing, both inpatient and outpatient, in helping deliver support and increasing quality care?
The healthcare industry has come a long way in terms of innovation, but taking technology even further to improve the standard of care is something I'm particularly passionate about.
Whether you're talking about the provider or the patient, technology needs to provide real value and not hinder processes. Providers are so busy that if they're going to take the time to step away from patients to learn how to integrate tech into their workflows, it needs to show significant progress and results. Patients, on the other hand, want something easy to understand, set and forget.
And while the healthcare industry is generally slow when it comes to adopting tech, we see some significant momentum in the diabetes management space.
That's one of the reasons I'm excited about working with the ADA. They provide a great deal of education and support for individuals living with diabetes about self-care and technology, from pumps to pens and CGMs. At the same time, Glytec focuses primarily on the inpatient side, including dosing, monitoring and reporting. It’s almost a closed-loop approach to diabetes education.
With the increased availability of outpatient diabetes tech and the recent groundswell of interest on the inpatient side we’ve seen at Glytec, I’m optimistic about the future of technology in glycemic management. Together, both sides can help deliver improved care to the millions of individuals who need help managing blood sugar.