Guest: Natalie Wischer
Presenter: Tabetha Moreto
Guest Bio: Natalie is the Chief Executive Officer for the National Association of Diabetes Centre (NADC). She has also worked extensively in both management and clinical roles across acute, aged care and community health settings. With over 20 years working in the area of diabetes, her passion has grown to include a comprehensive understanding of the opportunities and benefits of available technologies including telehealth and social media in self-management, education, and support of people living with diabetes. She is involved in a number of journals and publications sharing her in-depth knowledge through regular articles. Natalie is regularly invited to speak on diabetes and technology at national and international meetings.
Segment overview: Natalie talks about the Australian Diabetes Advancements and Technologies Summit (ADATS) 2017, which is offered to healthcare professionals in Australia for the first time. It aims to improve the knowledge and skill of healthcare professionals in the area of diabetes by covering advanced technologies, breakthrough therapeutics, and best practice innovations – this includes Apps, Gadgets, Flash Monitoring, Telehealth, and E-health services.
TRANSCRIPT – NADC
Tabetha Moreto: Hello everyone, welcome to Health Professional Radio. I’m your host for today, Tabetha Moreto. Our guest today is Natalie Wischer, CEO of the National Association of Diabetes Centers. She has worked in the area of diabetes for over 20 years. Today, she is excited to offer a new event called the ‘Australian Diabetes Advancements and Technology Summit’ to healthcare professionals, as she has a keen interest in technology and that is our topic for the day. Without further ado, welcome to the show Natalie. I’m so happy you can join us today.
Natalie Wischer: Thanks, Tabetha. I’m really, really excited to talk about Diabetes and Technology Summit and how diabetes and the use of technology is really making a difference to the lives of people living with diabetes.
T: That’s fabulous. Speaking of the summit, so please tell us some more about this summit that you have and also tell us more about yourself and your organization as well.
N: Well I’ll start with our organization, the National Association of Diabetes Centres which is the NADC. It has been around for around 20 years and it’s been part of the two peak diabetes industry bodies which is the Australian Diabetes Society and also the Australian Diabetes Educators Association. And they’re both organizations that support the health professionals that provide the education and support to people living with diabetes. For about 20 years ago, they got some funding support to really come together and look at how diabetes centres providing services across Australia could better work together and share resources, collaborate and basically work together to improve what they do. So that’s when the NADC was performed 20 years ago. And over time, unfortunately, like many things, the funding dried up a little bit and the resourcing wasn’t quite there for staffing. And probably in the last sort of 5 years as volunteers came and went and got a little bit tired along the way. One of the volunteers stock up their hand, Professor Sophia Zoungas who’s the current President of the Australian Diabetes Society. She said “If we’re really going to make something of the National Association of Diabetes Centers, we really need to employ someone to do that.” So my story comes in. I was previously on the Board of the Austrian Diabetes Educators Association, so I’m a registered nurse and a diabetes educator and when I was on the board of ADEA, I was also a volunteer on the board of the NADC. So that was some sort of 15 years ago now. And I had a passion for everything that the NADC offered. I’ve been working in rural and remote regions for the last 15 years of my professional career. So I really understand the importance of networking and particularly technology, in not only providing support and resources for the person living with diabetes, but for those of us as health professionals that need more information and resources. I also work clinically in a rural semi- remote workplace as a diabetes educator and again, really as my role evolved in not only providing quality in diabetes care, I also provided the role of a quality and risk manager. So when the opportunity to become a paid employee of the NADC came up five years ago, as a part-time person, I thought this would be fantastic. It really brings all my passions together. So at that time, I really embraced everything about NADC and thought we really might need to drive ourselves into the future by having some independent funding, in as far as being able to run our programs, our initiative without being reliant on parent companies such as the ADF and the ADEA. Unfortunately, probably two or three years ago ADEA decided to pull out of their support of the NADC but ADS continued to be the parent company of NADC which is fantastic. But I’ve also moved to NADC into a position whereby now it is completely independently funded from the ADS. So that actually means that we can basically run our own programs and projects and deliver on those things that we promised out in NADC membership. Amongst all of that, we’ve actually been able to grow our membership and really promote ourselves as a number of the resources and things that we provide, continue to grow. So it’s sort of been a little bit ‘chicken and egg,’ that I jump in the role and then try and get membership. I probably erred against that and made sure that we developed the resources and the reasons why people would want to become an NADC member centre. Now just to go back a bit about NADC membership, it’s actually not about the individual which is why people become members of ADEA or ADS, it’s about individual membership them as a health professional. But NADC is about membership of an organization. So it might be a tertiary level hospital organization, it might be a member centre which is a small rural like I’m involved with or it might be a general practice. And we’ve now also opened the membership of NADC more recently this year to pharmaceutical services that provide diabetes care and that’s a new sort of diabetes service in the market. We’re finding more and more pharmacist becoming credentialed diabetes educators and offering diabetes services and now we’ve also made membership available to primary health network and PCPs in Victoria. So our membership has grown enormously and we just want to continue to provide resources and support to our member centers across Australia and that’s how we came around to including the Australian Diabetes Advancements and Technology Summit (ADATS) into our program in a couple of weeks’ time.
T: That sounds very fabulous. You sound very interested when it comes to diabetes and technology. If you don’t mind me asking I want to ask you, why are you so passionate about technology and diabetes? Why these two topics in particular?
M: I guess it stems back from my experiences in rural and remote regions and that reliance that we have as health professionals on technology but also from firsthand experience. I have seen people really move from a place where they just thought, “This is my diabetes and these are monitoring with a blood glucose meter and then writing all my results down in a diary. This is it. This is all I’ve got stuck with.” And I’ll never forget an appointment that I had with an older person who was probably in their 70s and they turned up to their consultation with me and I said, “Did you bring your diary and your meter so we can go through your results?” And the lady looked at me and she sort of, can’t answer and she sort of put her hand in her handbag and I thought, “Oh no, here we go again.” They didn’t bring their diary. They didn’t bring their meter. We can’t really do as much as we could if all of that information was there. And then she brought out her smartphone, her phone that she had and I thought ‘we’re going to look at photos of her grandchildren.’ Well, that’s still nice and we’ll bring in the topic of diabetes somewhere there. And instead of bringing out photos of her grandchild, she actually brought out a diabetes app and it was probably coming on 6 or 7 years ago, brought out a diabetes app. She’d been recording all of her blood glucose levels in an app and she presented me with a fantastic graph of all her results, the food that she’d been eating, the exercise she’d been doing. And this was someone I really would have thought wouldn’t have been utilizing technology. So I think I was already interested in technology and what it could do for me as an individual, as a healthcare provider, but that moment really helped to cement the value and the importance that technology can play in improving diabetes care and keeping things interesting. I imagine living with diabetes could somewhat become mundane, stressful, boring and okay, sometimes technology doesn’t offer great solutions. But it does offer a little bit of excitement, it offers change, it mixes up the way that we do things. And I do have to say, I don’t like change for change sake, but I do embrace change if it brings around benefits and from that moment on, I really endeavored to download as many apps and try them out, really research what was out there and provide that information back to health professionals in the industry. And I believe, one of my brief, on my short time on this planet hopefully as long as I can make it, that is to really encourage other healthcare professionals to embrace technology. I know it can be really scary for so many people, but I think if we just acknowledge that we’re not expert, that we’re willing to have a go and that we’re interested, I think that’s all people need. So yes, if I can do something, it is to encourage other health professionals to really get involved in technology, understand a bit more about social media and how that can work to benefit people living, not just with diabetes but other chronic conditions.
T: That sounds very interesting. So earlier, you mentioned that some problems can be addressed with, especially when it comes to diabetes and technology, it looks like these two things can really work together. Now Natalie I’m going to ask you the opposite, what are the problems involving diabetes that technology cannot solve?
N: Well I think getting rid of diabetes all together. It hasn’t really and I think I would hear some scientists arguing saying, “Well we’re getting there. We’re working on it.” And technology’s very much a part of that and I know with some of the DNA testing and the big data that we’re getting, technology potentially will play a bigger and better role in that future and of course we’re having a presentation at our meeting about the consumer perspective on new technologies and the psychological impact of new technologies. And as one of our speakers, Jane Space, who does a lot of work in this area says, “All that glitters is not gold” and it can add to the burden of people living with diabetes and chronic disease, because if they heavily reliant on technology, and it fails. We have stories of people that have moved on to insulin pumps and pumps that deliver a slow dose of insulin consistently and also on continuous glucose monitors, monitor what the glucose level of a person is, rather than that person taking blood glucose levels from finger pricking regularly. All of those things are fantastic when they work well. They don’t necessarily talk to each other yet, so when we’re dying for really robust great systems that close that loop between what someone’s blood glucose level is and how much insulin they need, so basically responding like the pancreas. But we haven’t quite got there with all of that yet. We’ve got promises of great technology in the pipeline and sometimes that can really wear out people. Anyone in the chronic disease space in cancer, any of that, you watch the nightly news and get overly excited about the promise of some new technology, only to know that the reality is it’s 5, 10, 15 years off and then if it even comes to market, it may fail. And we’ve seen that with some of the wearable devices and the promises of wearable devices that monitor blood glucose levels and the like. Most of those have come to market and haven’t been successful for very long. So I think we can get a little bit weary of promises without the substance behind them.
T: Thank you very much for sharing your insight on this particular topic. Natalie I’m sorry to tell you we’re running out of time today but before we end our discussion today, can you please tell the audience or anyone who is interested in attending the event, how they can get in touch with you guys?
M: Well we’d love to hear from any health professionals that would like to attend our Australian Diabetes Advancement Summit coming up on Friday of the 20th of October 2017. You can find information about that or any of the NADC projects and programs because we have a lot of them and membership and an easy website which is www.nadc.net.au. And if anyone wants to shoot me or my team an email, it’s simply [email protected] and we’d love to hear from everyone out there interested in improving the care and the lives of people with diabetes.
T: Excellent. Thank you so much Natalie for coming on the show today. I really appreciate it.
M: Pleasant, lovely to have a chat.
T: And that was Natalie Wischer, CEO of the National Association of Diabetes Centres. We just been talking about the interesting upcoming Australian Diabetes Advancement and Technology Summit. If you liked this interview, transcripts and archives are available at www.hpr.fm. We’re on all social media platforms so don’t forget to follow, like and subscribe. We’re also available for download on SoundCloud and iTunes. I’m Tabetha Moreto and you’re listening to Health Professional Radio.