(Listen to the accompanying podcast: “Impact! A New Approach for Patients with Diabetes
Managing diabetes is a fulltime challenge that requires patients to track their blood sugar levels on an ongoing basis.
Typically, patients visit an endocrinologist once every three months for monitoring. But this approach has done nothing to stem the devastating results of the chronic disease. Over the longterm, diabetics whose blood sugar remains high, face serious complications, such as eye disease, renal dialysis, heart attack, and loss of limbs, leading to soaring health care costs.
One innovative tool for managing diabetes is the WellDoc system
, which uses a cell phone application with blue-tooth enabled technology to connect to commercial glucometers. These are medical devices that measure blood sugar levels.
The company was launched in 2005 and the global firm of PRTM Management Consultants
was brought in to help develop a program where technology converged with medicine, according to Jeffery Gruen, head of global health care services practice for PRTM.
“What we ended up building is a brand new model for diabetes care which is based on the cell phone as the distributing technology…,” said Gruen.
Through a partnership with Boston’s Joslin Diabetes Center
, the system gives diabetics access to the expertise of world-renowned endocrinologists, he said.
“There is an intuitive application to record what you eat, when you exercise, sleep patterns, other variables like blood pressure,” said Gruen. “And then, there is immediate feedback from the system, based on world-expert endocrinologists on what to do next”
Gruen said the system will tell the patient whether to increase or decrease the dose of insulin, and it will raise awareness of eating patterns. The information becomes a stream of data across the diabetic’s whole life, he said, allowing the system to analyze trends and to compare them with information from all the diabetics in the system.
By merging technology with innovative clinical applications, the system has demonstrated the ability to achieve a 2-point drop in glycated hemoglobin within 90 days, according to the WellDoc web site. The company claims the technology can spare the healthcare system $27 billion in annual costs.
“We encouraged them to think out of the box,” said Gruen. “To develop a vision of a new approach. To scan for new technologies, and to go through a detailed product development process…the net-net is in the evolving data.”