Telemedicine revolutionizes diabetes management in KSA
- Abbott-supported report by Economist Intelligence Unit reveals up to 90% of patients with diabetes in Saudi Arabia switched to virtual clinics in the past year
- Telemedicine consultations could be key to addressing the growing economic cost of treating diabetes
Riyadh, 6 July 2021 – A recent report by The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has revealed that the number of telemedicine clinics for patients with diabetes in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rose by 90% during 2020. Previously, this rate was growing at around 10% per year and the practice was largely underutilized.
The reason for the rapid rise in 2020 is attributed to the direct impact of the COVID-19 lockdown and subsequent restrictions, which limited in-person access to non-urgent clinical care, a rise in digital literacy and high technology adoption rates.
The EIU study found that the majority of people with diabetes reported a high level of satisfaction with virtual sessions and believed that telemedicine was essential for them to maintain good glucose control, especially during the pandemic.
According to 2019 reports, KSA and the UAE witnessed a high prevalence of diabetes, with one in five adults (18.3%) in Saudi Arabia and one in six (15.4%) in UAE diagnosed as diabetic1. Both countries have a high projected increase in cases, with expenses in healthcare and treatment forecast to rise by more than 500%. The economic burden of diabetes in the Kingdom during 2020 alone was estimated at US$6.5bn2. Thus, there is an urgent need for innovative and sustainable management and prevention tools to address the growing healthcare and economic burden.
“Sedentary lifestyle and evolving eating habits have exacerbated the incidence of obesity and diabetes in Saudi Arabia,” said Dr. Bassam bin Abbas, Consultant of Pediatric Diabetes and Endocrinology at King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center in Riyadh. Therefore, it is instrumental to help patients keep their blood glucose level in check to reduce health complications. Luckily, diabetes telemonitoring is now enabling doctors to access their patients’ glucose profile and provide valuable medical advice in a timely manner.”
The EIU report found that telemedicine consultations played an important role in connected care and in keeping people healthy, with the added benefit of being a cost-effective option through the reduction of cost of travel, avoiding appointment cancellations and making effective use of medical practitioners’ time.
“Diabetes is one of the most prevalent non-communicable diseases in the Middle East,” said Hani Khasati, Regional Director for Abbott’s diabetes care business. “Today, continuous glucose monitoring systems are enabling people living with diabetes to better monitor their glucose levels without the need for routine finger-pricking, and to voluntarily share valuable information with their treating doctors through secure cloud-based digital tools. These life-changing systems increase HbA1c time in range and improves clinical outcomes3,4, whilst reducing the need for in-person hospital appointments.”
The report projects that as lockdown restrictions ease down, new hybrid models of care will emerge and a balance will be struck by alternating patients between in-person and virtual appointments. This has been simpler with the introduction of new, easier-to-use self-monitoring tools.
The report, entitled ‘Telemedicine and Diabetes Care in Saudi Arabia and UAE’ is available at: www.eiuperspectives.economist.com