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  • AI is revolutionising diabetes treatment, inquiry told

    Author: AAP

Artificial intelligence has begun revolutionising the way people with diabetes receive life-saving medicines.

Speaking at a parliamentary inquiry into diabetes, endocrinologist Roger Chen said AI had been developed that enabled continuous glucose monitors to interact with insulin pumps.

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A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is a wearable device that tracks blood glucose (sugar) every few minutes, throughout the day and night.

The readings are relayed in real time to a device that can be read by the patient, caregiver or healthcare provider, even remotely.

"I've had parents cry on my doorstep saying 'Our lives have changed ... we have the ability to monitor kids from afar from our phones'," Associate Professor Chen told a public hearing in Canberra on Friday.

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An insulin pump can then deliver the required amount of the hormone based on the patient's sugar level detected by the CGM.

"In many cases the patient will still need to input how much food they're having and then there will be another delivery, Assoc Prof Chen said.

"But I can say from an emotional, face-to-face at the coal face and also from a publication and research perspective that this really has revolutionised type 1 diabetes, it has changed people's lives and management."

Diabetes Australia says only around 24 per cent of people living with type 1 diabetes are currently able to access the technology.

The number of Australians living with diabetes has more than doubled since 2000 to reach more than 1.5 million, and the country is on track to reach 3.1 million by 2050.

The disease disproportionately affects people in Indigenous communities, and the inquiry heard from one health expert calling for a fresh approach to tackle the problem, led by First Nations people.

"The impact of diabetes in Indigenous communities cannot be overstated with around one in 10 adults living with diabetes," said Dr Jason Agostino, senior medical adviser at the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO).

Dr Agostino, who practises as a GP in Yarrabah, far north Queensland, and whose son has type 1 diabetes, said there is a high degree of overlap between diabetes, cardiovascular disease and renal disease.

"This leads to early heart attacks, people ending up with kidney failure on dialysis, to blindness and amputations," Dr Agostino said.

"In Yarrabah I suspect every family has been affected by the loss of someone early to the consequences of diabetes."

He said in Yarrabah the dialysis unit cannot keep up with demand and it was a similar story across the country.

The inquiry is due to hold a public hearing at Campbelltown Hospital in southwest Sydney on Monday.

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