If you have diabetes, you already know that it can be a time-consuming disease to control. And that’s fine (mostly) when you’re well and in your right mind and able to do it on your own. But what about when you’re in the hospital, either because of an accident, a surgery, or a critical illness? What happens when you have to depend on the nurses whose schedules are already so full to manage your diabetes?
Well, soon, it may be a piece of technology rather than a nurse that you’re relying on. A team of researchers at Admetsys, acknowledging the immense time commitment nurses and doctors have to put in when diabetic patients enter their care, developed an artificial intelligence system that is capable of functioning like an artificial pancreas. It monitors blood sugar levels and corrects for both high and low blood sugar all on its own without human intervention—after it’s all hooked up, of course.
Upon admittance to the hospital, patients with diabetes can have a tiny chip inserted under their skin and be hooked up to an IV drip. The chip will regularly read their blood glucose levels and communicate that information with a special software that is connected to the IV drip. If the system decides that the patient’s blood glucose reading is either too high or too low, it can administer either insulin or glucose directly into the patient’s body through the IV.
Timothy Valk, co-founder of Admetsys, calls the technology “a laboratory on a chip” and believes it will help hospital staff focus on other tasks. “We need to have automation work to improve the capacity for nurses and doctors to do the more appropriate, high risk needed jobs, and less of the manual techniques,” he says.
You may be thinking that you’d have trouble trusting a piece of technology rather than a professional to do such a crucial job, and we completely understand why. But you might change your mind when you consider the amount of physical and mental strain that is put on exhausted hospital staff every day. There are so many people’s lives on the line, so many medications to remember and administer, so many names and other facts to try to keep in one’s working memory. Most of us would trust a calculator’s computation more than a human’s…so why not trust artificial intelligence to give you error-free diabetes treatment as well?
This product isn’t available in a hospital near you yet, but we hope it will be soon, for your convenience and peace of mind, as well as to free up some of the valuable time nurses and doctors need to help their patients—yourself included—return to good health. Admetsys has completed three successful clinical trials in the U.S. and is working on one in Europe.
Is it also possible that this completely hands-off system will inspire future diabetes management devices that could be worn at home rather than in the hospital? Will we one day have insulin pumps that are also capable of injecting glucose and don’t need you to tell them when to do it? Only time will tell.
Elizabeth Nelson is a wordsmith, an alumna of Aquinas College in Grand Rapids, a four-leaf-clover finder, and a grammar connoisseur. She has lived in west Michigan since age four but loves to travel to new (and old) places. In her free time, she. . . wait, what’s free time?