Statistics, statistics, statistics

Diabetes UK have just published their Key Statistics on Diabetes report, 2009. It makes for interesting reading and certainly puts the diabetes problem into perspective. Here’s a look at some of the numbers.

Diabetes affects 246 million people worldwide and is expected to affect 380 million by 2025 – so we’re definitely not alone! There are 2.5 million people in the UK who have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Of that 2.5 million, around 15% or 370,000 have type one diabetes – we’re a significant minority in the big world of diabetes, and there’s a constant battle to differentiate between T1 and T2. But at the moment, as a T1 in the UK I can see real opportunity for healthcare improvements as a result of the huge growth of people with T2 – it means that diabetes is firmly on the government agenda. It’s seen as a significant issue that needs addressing, which opens the doors for improvements in care for T1’s and T2’s.

And why are the government interested in fixing the diabetes problem? Because we’re very expensive.

Current estimates show that around 10% per cent of the NHS budget is spent on diabetes. This works out at around £9 billion a year. Or:

– £173 million a week
– £25 million a day
– £1 million an hour
– £17,000 a minute
– £286 a second.

Whichever way you look at it, we’re not cheap to keep.

As I pointed out to my PCT when I was applying for funding for my insulin pump and CGMS, the presence of diabetic complications increases NHS costs more than five-fold, and increases by five the chance of a person needing hospital admission. In other words, it’s far cheaper to help me stay healthy than to pick up the pieces later when it all goes wrong. That’s the argument I use all the time, it works on every level – financially, morally, ethically – it’s always better to prevent the problem rather than treat it later. Unless perhaps you’re an NHS finance director with an annual budget to balance who doesn’t intend to be in the job when the cost of my complications arrives 20 years from now!

All figures in this article are sourced from the Diabetes UK Key Statistics on Diabetes report, 2009

Review – Accu-Chek 360° Diabetes Management Software

Accu-Chek 360° Diabetes Management SoftwareA couple of weeks ago I mentioned that I was getting some new software for recording my diabetic data to replace my old Accu-Chek Compass software.  Compass was created in Microsoft Access and was not so much outdated as positively prehistoric!  As I’m in the lucky position of using one of the biggest, blackest, butchest and best BG meters in existence, the excellent Accu-Chek Compact Plus from Roche Diagnostics (pfft, hardly – Tim], it’s pretty obvious the software was from the same source to allow PC and meter to communicate.  As always, there is no communications standard to allow any meter to access any software, manufacturers are far too proprietorial for that!

The software comes with a new USB cable to replace the old one that hooked into the serial port.  Shaped a little like a cloverleaf it has an electric blue flashing light designed to induce seizures in anyone unfortunate enough to be epileptic as well as diabetic.  I’ve not yet found a way to switch this light off; if I do I’ll let you know.  What this light signifies though is that by placing your meter with its infra-red port pointing towards it, switching the meter to communication mode will automatically start the download.  The downside is that this pops up a window requiring input from the user, but it pops up in the background rather than on top of all other open windows, so unless you know about it you’re left wondering what’s going on.  Apart from that, the communication between meter and PC is easy and quick.

Once you’ve downloaded some data, the differences in the software quickly become apparent.  Installing it and setting it up is frightfully easy, especially if you’ve been using Compass as you can port all your data across into 360°, making the transition pretty much seamless.  The Main Menu page is still a little on the clunky side, but attractive enough and easily navigable.  Where this software really scores over its predecessor though, is the amount of data that can be stored and the additional information that can be input by the user.  As well as all the downloaded data from the meter it’s possible to input insulin doses, events, and comments on the diary entries, as well as recording a wealth of other information such as HbA1c, blood pressure, three types of cholesterol, height, weight and a list of medications amongst other things.  Almost everything can be printed out, emailed, or faxed directly from the current screen with relative ease.

Accu-Chek 360° Diabetes Management Software
Like the Alps in profile

Reporting from the system is also pretty comprehensive, though the reports are only customisable to a certain extent and there doesn’t appear to be any way to create new custom reports.  Having said that though, data is exportable to Excel or Open Office with little bother, so custom reports are available for the geekier geeks.

Over and above the reports available such as the log book and diary, the standard graphical reports are perfectly adequate and make communication with diabetes professionals pretty straight forward.  Personally I use the Trend Graph more than any other, though the Target Chart is quite useful too.  In all cases a raft of statistics are also available to keep track of your lifestyle.  The program now offers three reports for pump users as well; though not being a pumper I was unable to try these with live data, so I have absolutely no idea of how useful they are.

In conclusion then; Accu-Chek 360° is easy to set up, easy to use and provides all the information you could wish for in a clear and reportable format.  The ability to add data to diary/log book entries makes it eminently suitable for both T1 and T2 diabetics (Roche must have read all those emails I sent them!)  The whole package is easy to use, though not perfect of course, but generally head and shoulders above its predecessor.  The biggest drawback of course, is that it’s tied solely to Accu-Chek meters, a minor point I know, but a more open system would be so much better.

Pepper pot fingers

Hands, some of which belong to a model, yesterday
Hands, some of which belong to a model, yesterday

Back through the mists of time when I was a small child during the halcyon and sunny decade that was the 1980’s, I often thought about what my job might be when I was all grown up.

This is, of course, not wildly unusual; with many a small boy yearning to grow up to be a racing driver or a train driver (I think it’s the membership of the Transport and General Workers Union that particularly appeals to the five year old train driver to be).

I, however, was different.

At the tender age of five, I knew that modelling was the career for me. But by then I had already realised I had the lop-sided face of an irascible pug licking mustard off a nettle, so general modelling was clearly out. But what could I do, what could I do? That was it – hand modelling!

As you will all, of course, know; hand modelling is a very specific type modelling where only your hands are in shot (the name kind of gives it away). You know the sort of photograph – the manly hand in the advert that clutches the can of foaming beer, the hand and wrist that shows off the trendy cufflinks. Yep! That was the career for me.

My early research showed that hand modelling was a cut-throat, dog-eat-dog (sorry Neville) industry and that I would have to be something special to get ahead. So I worked hard, got a clutch of GCSEs and bunch of A levels in difficult subjects (I had a bias towards to the arts, but don’t hold that against me). I then studied through arduously long days and nights to get a degree in law. All the while I slathered my hands in expensive creams, lotions and tonics; avoided manual labour and kept my nails beautifully manicured.

So far, so good. But I still didn’t feel I was ready to become the hand model I’d always dreamt of being. So I took a temporary McJob as a specialist in Internet-based intellectual property – something we’ve all done in times of need – to tide myself over in the meantime.

Seven long years elapsed and on 6th December 2005 I finally felt ready to resign from my job to at last become a hand model. But the very next day disaster struck and I was diagnosed with Type One diabetes.

Almost immediately I started testing my blood glucose six, seven or even eight times a day and before long I had developed the “pepper pot” fingers that are the internationally recognised badge of diabetes. No reputable agency would employ a hand model whose finger tips were covered in the tiny black spots inherent in constant BG testing. In an instant my hand modelling future was in ruins.

I sobbed for a week and had to return, shame-faced, to a career in a niche, IP-focussed consultancy and my childhood dreams were crushed. All because of diabetes.

So dear readers, let me know in the comments below which of your fictitious potential careers have been ruined by the horrific scourge that is diabetes.

Comatose and rotting toes – the lighter side of insulin dependency