It's fast approaching 100 years since the discovery of insulin. So it's fitting that marking the centenary comes as America's 'foot doctor' and a leading Massachusetts-based start-up expert single out Scotland as significantly outperforming other countries, including the United States, in the care and management of diabetes.
The duo have been joined by Raymond O'Hare, former Scots director of Microsoft, to launch a Scotland/USA digital venture 'ePrevenir' (from the Latin praevenire i.e. to warn, anticipate, prevent) to lead the global fight against diabetes, in the process taking patient screening to an entirely new level.
COVID-19 is masking another worsening universal life-changing illness, at a time when resources are understandably being concentrated on the coronavirus pandemic crisis. Latest statistics available make for a grim read. Diabetes UK reports cases have doubled in the last 20 years and that one person in 16 is diabetic. Risk of an early death is more than doubled due to the disease. It's further complicated by half of individuals affected being left undiagnosed far too long, later discovering they have contracted the chronic illness. It's costing Britain's cash-strapped National Health Service £10bn annually and rising. Diabetes is a major cause of blindness, kidney failure, heart attack and stroke. Risk of amputation is 25 times greater than non-sufferers.
International Diabetes Federation says that, globally, a fifth of those over 65 is a sufferer, 1.1 million children and adolescents live with type one, and a sixth of births are affected during pregnancy. With all of this in mind the new Scotland/US digital partnership represents a groundbreaking digital solution with a global reach. The venture promises enhanced prevention, better control of the disease, improved survival rates and significant healthcare cash savings. Raymond O'Hare is chair of the new venture in Glasgow, where vital research and development, and with it jobs, will be created and headquartered.
Co-founder is the aforementioned 'foot doctor' Dr Mark Hinkes, foremost authority on diabetes in the States, who has developed the methodology and inextricably-linked algorithms behind the novel/smart technological-based solution. Working closely with him on both sides of the Atlantic is Massachusetts-based specialist in early-stage enterprises, Bruce Lynskey, together with senior technologist Stephen Behan, and business advisor Eddy Yacoubian, both Glasgow-based. Chair Raymond operates a non-executive portfolio mainly concentrating on the digital sector. A high-tech prototype is in an advanced stage, consisting of an easy-to-use, by iPad or equivalent, management tool for healthcare providers and diabetic patients, utilising evidence-based best practice medicine.
From Massachusetts, Bruce Lynskey says: 'Scotland significantly outperforms the US in care and management of diabetes. There is much more going on... that can benefit the US and many other countries struggling with the condition'.
Dr Mark Hinkes, author of Keep the Legs You Stand On
, told me from his Nashville base: 'I remain passionate about significantly improving the rates of prevention, early diagnosis, superior management and reduced levels of amputation'. He contends that earlier escalation for treatment ultimately leads to avoidable hospital treatment and significant reductions in numbers of cases and lost limbs.
The story begins two decades ago – as is often the case with breakthrough medical solutions – at a dinner in Nashville involving Bruce and Mark. Mark had developed a set of algorithms to use in a medical practice to incorporate evidence-based medicine, permitting a standardised method to examine, evaluate and analyse the diabetic patient's lower extremities. Bruce encouraged Mark to pursue it. Fast forward five years and Mark has been busy producing impressive results on patients' health, along with what adds up to significant medical cost savings.
A standard digital platform has been developed to include, along with foot pathology, the three other diabetic morbidities: ocular, vascular and renal, enabling healthcare providers to regularly screen patients. Glasgow-based tech expert Stephen was brought on board, key towards applying machine learning and artificial intelligence to patient details and ultimately transforming the platform into an expert system to correlate that data across the four morbidities.
Raymond, a board member elsewhere with Stephen, accepted the invitation to chair this exciting new venture, with Eddy strengthening the business advisory side of the team. Raymond says the aim is to focus firstly on worst-hit countries including China, India, USA, Pakistan and Brazil. Also England which, unlike Scotland, has no annual examination programme. Data collected through controlled examinations will form the world's most powerful expert system available on diabetes.
Raymond adds: 'The venture brings together a highly unusual and powerful combination of individuals from varied backgrounds: a podiatrist surgeon, an entrepreneur/academic, an oil industry drilling expert turned IT guru, plus two IT sector veterans'.
Dr Hinkes has been refining and developing his approach to the prevention of amputations for over 25 years. 'His work and experience has culminated in a set of algorithms and best practice embedded in the ePrevenir solution, with the potential to change what are quite horrific diabetes statistics'. Concludes Raymond, former chair of Institute of Directors Scotland: 'Forever'.
Bill Magee is a freelance journalist who specialises in business and finance. He has written for many publications including The Scotsman, The Times, Business Insider and Reuters
Chris Holme is an award-winning science and medical journalist and founder of website www.historycompany.co.uk