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Connected Health and Diabetes

More than 382 million people throughout the world currently live with diabetes.  That number is expected to grow by 55% over the next 20 years.  In the United States alone, nearly 30 million people have diabetes.  Another 86 million Americans have pre-diabetes, putting them at high risk for developing Type 2 diabetes.  Type 1 diabetics, whose bodies do not produce enough insulin, make up about 5% of the diabetic population.  Insulin therapy and close monitoring of blood sugar levels are critical to their health.  The more common form of diabetes, Type 2, is characterized by high blood sugar levels and the inability to use insulin properly.  As the disease progresses, Type 2 diabetics may also require insulin therapy.  Fortunately many new connected health technologies can help diabetics and their family members slow the progression of this potentially debilitating and deadly disease.

Wellness and Health Management Apps:

Medication alone cannot prevent the progression of diabetes, so lifestyle and diet management are key to long-term health.  In addition to the numerous general wellness programs and apps that are available for anyone interested in improving their health, there are some great resources specifically for the management of pre-diabetes and diabetes.

Omada Health’s Prevent Program:  Prevent is a digital health intervention designed to help individuals at high risk for developing diabetes or heart disease make lifestyle changes, lose weight, and build a support community.  Participants are matched to a health coach and a small group of fellow participants, with whom they interact over the course of the 16-week core program and the eight month self-guided follow up.  They also receive a digital scale to log their weight loss progress.  Prevent is built on the same protocol as the CDC’s successful National Diabetes Prevention Program, which was shown to reduce participants risk of developing diabetes by 58%.  Prevent is covered through certain health care plans and is available to individuals at a low monthly cost.

Fooducate: Fooducate is a popular diet tracking app which provides more than just calorie information.  Fooducate grades each food item, give an explanation of the grade, and offers a list of healthy alternatives.  The basic app is free, while premium versions include sophisticated meal planning and nutrient tracking options geared specifically toward the management of diabetes and other chronic disease.

Digital Health Tools:

Monitoring and managing blood sugar levels is a necessary task that no one enjoys, but connected health technologies ease the burden.  In recent years, smaller, connected Blood Glucose Meters (BGMs) have made it easier to check blood glucose levels discretely, and to share this data with loved ones and caregivers.  Telcare’s BGM is cellular-enabled, sending glucose readings directly to a cloud-based monitoring system where they can be viewed by professional and family caregivers.  Glooko is a cloud-based system that can sync BGM data from more than 30 popular meters to an Apple or Android phone.  Both the Telcare and Glooko systems allow users to view trends in their data, add information about diet and lifestyle, and receive feedback on the management of their diabetes.  For diabetics who don’t want to carry multiple devices, Sanofi’s iBGStar Diabetes Manager is a tiny meter that plugs directly into an iPhone or iPod Touch, and integrates with a Diabetes Manager app as well as several diet and lifestyle support apps.  Planned for launch in 2015, YOFiMeter aims to simplify life for diabetics by integrating a lancet and test strips directly into a BGM, making it easier to carry and use the BGM.

What’s next in Diabetes Management?

Dexcom recently launched SHARE, which allows data from a docked Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) receiver to be transmitted to caregivers and loved ones via Bluetooth connection to the user’s iPhone.  Although this is a big step forward, there is currently no FDA-approved system to transmit this data when the CGM user is on the move and can’t dock their receiver.  Frustrated by these limitations, tech-savvy individuals in the Diabetes community have started the #WeAreNotWaiting  movement and have begun hacking existing products to develop the solutions they want to see.  Nightscout CGM in the Cloud is a DIY solution that helps Dexcom CGM users stream their real-time data to the cloud from any location.  This allows parents to check in on their diabetic children while they’re at soccer practice, for example, and allows all users to maintain a more complete log of their own health data.  The CGM in the Cloud Facebook group currently has more than 8,000 users.  A collaborative group from Boston University and Massachusetts General Hospital called The Bionic Pancreas Team  is working to make a closed-loop automated blood glucose control system. By linking an iPhone and app to a Dexcom CGM and two Tandem Diabetes T:Slim pumps which dispense insulin and glucagon, the system uses algorithms to make dosing decisions top control blood glucose.  The system has been successfully tested in several short term clinical trials.  Meanwhile, rumors abound of individuals who have built control systems on their own.  While these solutions are primarily focused on management of Type 1 diabetes, the technology that is being developed will ultimately help all diabetics better understand and manage their chronic disease.  As engaged users continue to drive demand for innovation, expect to see solutions like these available to all patients as FDA-approved systems and devices.



Global Diabetes statistics:


For more information on the management of diabetes:

WLSA Infographic:

American Diabetes Association:

Centers for Disease Control:

Diabetes Mine: