Artificial intelligence (AI) and chatbots have been on everyone’s lips lately. As the arrival of any innovation or change initially instills fear and even makes some people’s hair stand on end, the rapid trajectory of AI and chatbots is once again an example of the unknown becoming unloved. For Jan Alleman, these developments are disruptive and controversial, while others – who discover and embrace them – are increasingly discussing and unlocking the incredible and exciting possibilities.
This technology is not something that, until recently, would simply be used in the same sentence as personal well-being or health. Man and machine are two different worlds, aren’t they? However, the South African diabetes technology company, Guidepost, epitomizes that progress through reconciliation with technology is not only possible, but has already changed the lives of thousands of South Africans with diabetes through its innovative chatbot.
With one in nine adults affected by diabetes, South Africa has the highest prevalence of diabetes in Africa according to the International Diabetes Federation. It is the leading cause of death among women and the second leading cause of death in South Africa. In addition, those with uncontrolled or unmanaged diabetes have significantly more medical complications.
Connecting diabetes sufferers with a personal diabetes nurse (also called diabetes educators) bridges the gap Guidepost ‘s advanced technology closes the gap in diabetes care and enables individuals to manage this chronic disease more effectively.
The chatbot already has high praise from prestigious global programs like the WhatsApp sponsored Chat for Impact en die International Finance Corporation se Global Innovation Showcase receive.
Guidepost was set up in 2012 to improve the quality of life of people with diabetes. Led by a team of medical doctors, scientists and AI specialists, Guidepost is committed to helping as many diabetes sufferers as possible and completely redefining diabetes management.
Although great strides are being made in the treatment of diabetes, including new devices, technology and advice, diabetes remains largely a disease that requires self-management. To live a healthier life and reduce hospitalizations, people living with diabetes must pay close attention to their diet and lifestyle. This requires significant adjustments, which are difficult to achieve and sustain without ongoing support. This is a gap that Guidepost is tackling thanks to personal and professional engagement, fueled by AI.
Guidepost’s WhatsApp chatbot connects people with diabetes, whose medical fund provides for this, with their own personal and expert educator, who helps them deal with this chronic disease through self-management and support. Many medical funds already offer this benefit as part of their list of prescribed minimum benefits (also called PMBs), including Discovery Health and Bankmed.
According to prof. David Segal, Chief Medical Officer of Guidepost, is a diabetes educator and an integral part of the diabetes care team. “To limit the devastating effects of the disease, daily self-management is critical. Yet many South Africans struggle to cope with the disease because they have poor access to knowledge and support.”
According to Nontsikelelo Nkomo, a nurse and one of the Guidepost educators, this is a wonderful program. “The patients are eager to learn, they talk freely about their condition, and ask a lot of questions.”
Angela Reddy is a diabetes sufferer who believes the program adds particular value. “The experts are very helpful and friendly. Not only did I learn more about insulin and medication, but I also received advice about food – what to eat and what to avoid – and learned more about my blood sugar reading.”
Graham Rowe, chief executive of Guidepost, explains that diabetes nursing is a specialized skill that has not received sufficient recognition until now.
“This network means that nurses can develop themselves professionally while focusing on diabetes care. Having a benefit like the Diabetes Educator Consultation available makes a huge difference in the lives of patients. This gives them the opportunity to understand their type of diabetes, as well as to manage the risks, progression of the disease and possible complications.
“The complexity of diabetes makes it difficult to manage, even with access to the best medicines, devices and advice. We have found that our relationship approach inspires people with diabetes to improve self-management in sustainable ways, ultimately improving their quality of life. Nurse by nurse and patient by patient: that’s how we win the diabetes battle,” said Rowe.
Segal believes the partnership with thousands of doctors strengthens their network. “On the one hand, we are building a network of professional nurses trained as diabetes educators to equip patients to manage the disease on a daily basis, and on the other hand, we are empowering those with diabetes with the help and support they deserve.”
- Join the Guidepost se Education to Protect Tomorrow (EPTO) program for free by sending a Whatsapp to 087 551 7928 or clicking on this link.
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