Mary Poppins’ therapy for sickness was a spoonful of sugar to help the medicine go down. Don’t tell that to Sara Gardner the CTO for our Social Innovation Business Unit. Sara believes the old adage that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. More specifically she believes that IoT is best applied in prevention.
As CTO of our Social Innovation Business unit Sara equates social innovation to the Internet of things that matter. By this she means the internet of things (IoT) that have broad societal impact. Not just smart things like watches and thermostats, but the internet of these things that create a broader insight and richer application to drive a smarter, safer, and healthier world. While IoT can help to solve or manage problems, Sara believes that the best use of IoT is to prevent problems. At an International Women’s Day event sponsored by Techonomy Sara shared an example from the UK. The UK spends $13 Billion annually on type 2 Diabetes, which is inherently a preventable disease. The National Institute for Health Research Collaboration for Leadership in Applied Health Research and Care (NIHR CLAHRC) Greater Manchester are working in partnership with Hitachi and the University of Manchester, conducting a study using telephone and web-based intervention to support people who are at the greatest risk of developing type 2 diabetes. The objective is to work towards a diabetes prevention program that can be proven to be clinically effective, highly accessible, and be shown to produce visible cost savings. The final report is expected in August 2016. There have been preliminary studies that showed that lifestyle intervention for people with Impaired Glucose Regulation (IGR)*1 can reduce the number who go on to develop Type 2 Diabetes by as much as 58%.
In Japan, despite a growing population of elderly people, the country has been able to maintain its position as a nation with the longest life expectancy and low healthcare expenditure as a proportion of GDP (9.5% versus USA 17%). This high level of healthcare cost performance is the result of various preventative practices. Hitachi contributes to this with an established lifestyle change program targeted at employees of Japanese companies, including Hitachi Group companies, who have metabolic syndrome (a group of risk factors including high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat). Hitachi’s program has been in commercial service since 2009, and has since helped thousands of participants improve their lifestyles. Hitachi’s program leverages information technology (IT) and telecommunications to deliver the service efficiently at scale, as well as ensure the standard (and consistency) of quality. This expertise is the basis for the partnership with NIH.
Recently a customer and a good friend of mine came to a meeting in Santa Clara, and I was surprised to see the change in his appearance in two short years. He still had the broad shoulders that he developed when he was a national swimming champion but he had lost about 20 kilos. When we went to dinner he explained that he had developed diabetes and had lost the weight by avoiding carbs and taking medication. He now has to forgo his love for California wines and Dunkin Donuts. Diabetes is a raging epidemic, even in places like India, where one would expect the diet to be less conducive to this disease. I am sure that every one of us knows someone who has this disease.
Revenues for diabetic drugs are projected to grow from $35.6bn in 2012 to $55.3bn in 2017. All these drugs that are consumed are also being excreted into sewer systems causing additional environmental problems. A recent study of the fresh water in the Great Lakes of the United States showed that wastewater treatment was not filtering out Metformin, which is the most prevalent diabetic medication. Studies indicate that the drug is altering the reproduction of fish, and is being consumed by people who get their drinking water from the Great lakes.
Instead of treating the problem of diabetes with Drugs and more drugs, Hitachi would like to use IoT to effect a change in life style through the use of IoT and prevent diabetes.
Besides being an advocate for Social Innovation and the Internet of Things that matter, Sara is also an advocate for women in IT. If you have daughters or know of young women who are considering a career in IT, please have them watch this short video where Sara explains how the societal impact of IoT will attract more women to IT.