During the last year, the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force has had the privilege of meeting and learning from some remarkable people who are overcoming incredible health odds and embracing broadband health solutions along the way. We share one such experience from a young diabetes advocate below - in her own words. This account again demonstrates the transformative power of broadband in health and in meeting the needs of consumers with health challenges. P. Michele Ellison, Chair
My name is Tesch West and I have diabetes. I am also a legal intern on the FCC's Connect2Health Task Force, where we are charting the broadband future of health and care and working to ensure that the FCC stays ahead of the health technology curve. I was inspired to work on this Task Force because of the impact these issues have on my life. I hope that by sharing my personal story, it might inspire others with diabetes and other chronic diseases to learn more about the positive impacts broadband-based health technologies can have on their health.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, just over 29 million Americans have diabetes, and only 5% are living with type 1 diabetes. While 5% may seem insignificant in comparison to the other 95% living with type 2 diabetes, I can assure you that the 1.25 million Americans with type 1 would disagree. I should know - I'm one of them. I was diagnosed when I was 10 years old. I haven’t let an autoimmune disorder hold me back from achieving my dreams, such as going to law school.
Broadband health technology has been a big part of my success. I have a wireless implantable sensor that tests my blood sugar and notifies me when my medication should be delivered. I literally sleep easier knowing it will wake me if there is a problem. Also, my glucometer and insulin pump use radio frequencies to "talk" to each other and I can download all of this information and send it to my doctors. Quite the change from 14 years ago when I was first diagnosed - the hospital staff drew my blood for a simple glucose test with a plastic tube and a glucometer the size of a loaf of bread.
I'm also encouraged by other innovative technologies potentially on the horizon for people living with diabetes, such as a contact lens glucometer, which uses computer chips to detect glucose levels in tear drops. Also, a device called a "bionic pancreas" can track blood sugar levels, send the data to a smartphone, and automatically administer insulin and glucagon as needed.
Until recently, I only heard from my endocrinologist about three times a year, which meant that staying motivated and vigilant in my health care was a burden I carried alone. Today, I have a team of people helping me no matter where I am. With electronic health records and a patient portal on my smartphone, I can communicate with my doctor and other caregivers to keep me healthy. Instead of waiting for an appointment, I can get the advice and support I need when I need it to keep fighting this disease.
With the help of broadband-enabled technologies, such as telehealth and implantable sensors, my diabetes is under control and manageable. It doesn't define me. It is only a part of my life. Working at the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force, I have come to realize that by charting the future of broadband-enabled health care, we are charting the future of people like me.
[Tesch West is a second year law student at George Washington University Law School. She is currently working as a legal intern on the Connect2HealthFCC Task Force and has served as a national youth advocate on various issues concerning diabetes and diabetes research.]