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Digital health and sustainability: USI student wins Youth in Action competition 

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Institutional Communication Service

22 July 2022

Elisa Galmarini, a student in the Master in Communication, Management and Health at USI Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, is the winner of the Youth In Action for Sustainable Development Goals competition, sponsored by Fondazione Italiana Accenture and Fondazione Allianz Umanamente, which aims to collect and promote the best project ideas in business and sustainability proposed by young people Under 30. 

Among the various challenges proposed, Elisa participated in the one launched by Novartis. She focused on "Measuring the impact of digital health in terms of sustainable development and building a communication strategy that highlights the correlation between Digital Health and sustainability." 

Challenge and project 

The challenge was to develop key performance indicators (KPIs) that enable the measurement of the impact of digital health on two sustainable development goals (SDG3 and SDG9). 

In this extensive digital healthcare context, Elisa Galmarini focused on digital phenotyping, which consists of the ongoing collection of data regarding individuals and their behaviour through digital devices for personal use. By analysing the effects of continuous glucose monitoring systems, the so-called CGM*, on the rate of hospitalisation of diabetic patients and related costs, she was able to develop two indicators: 

The first indicator aims to measure the impact of CGMs on the national health care system, specifically on costs related to hospitalisations following glycemic coma. It is calculated by comparing the incidence of a given phenomenon between two groups of individuals. In this case, the phenomenon being examined is glycemic coma, while the factor stratifying the groups is CGM use.   

Although these devices are designed to make diabetes management as autonomous as possible, the primary care physician remains central. This has led to the definition of a secondary goal: quantify the number of physicians available to review data collected through CGM. However, this activity is not to be considered straightforward, as a number of obstacles need to be factored in, including unavailability of means, poor computer literacy and lack of confidence in the collection method. 

The indicator devised, dubbed Turn-over, consists of the ratio of physicians who start using this system in X period to the number of physicians who are not yet willing to do so, expressed as a %. Then, by assigning an economic value to the individual unit, savings can be quantified by calculating an integral. 

*The glucose monitoring system is a small, automatically inserted sensor on the abdomen or arm that constantly measures interstitial glucose concentration. The collected data are sent to a handheld device so the patient can directly control clinical progress. 

Sustainability as an opportunity for the future 

"It was a great honour for me to participate in the competition and subsequently to be proclaimed as the winner of the challenge launched by Novartis," says Elisa. "Participating in the contest was an excellent opportunity to apply what I have learned over the years during my Master's degree in Communication, Management and Health at USI and to engage directly with other students or professionals. The events, especially the ones I attended in person (workshop with the company and award ceremony), were inspiring. On those occasions, I appreciated and experienced the great potential of young people and our focus on the theme "sustainability." They were also great opportunities to meet new people and introduce ourselves to companies."