mHealth takes on diabetes

Mobile tool targets low blood sugar readings
By Eric Wicklund
10:44 AM

Boston's Joslin Diabetes Center is using an mHealth platform to help diabetics and their caregivers control a potentially fatal side-effect of the disease.

Joslin and Glooko have launched the HypoMap, a mobile tool that enables diabetics and their caregivers to identify low blood-sugar readings, or hypoglycemia. If left untreated, the condition can plunge the diabetic into a coma and even lead to death. It’s especially dangerous for a percentage of the world's diabetics who can't recognize the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia – a condition known as hypoglycemia unawareness – and therefore don't recognize the danger signs.

[See also: Google at work on lens to gauge glucose.]

"With this … we're able to see people who are trending in the wrong direction and take action," Rick Altinger, CEO of Glooko, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based mHealth company, told mHealth News. "We're not only capturing that glucose data (remotely), but we're doing something with it."

Diabetes is fast reaching epidemic proportions, with a corresponding effect on the nation's healthcare system. Where there were 7 million diagnosed diabetics in 1980, that number has jumped to 28 million this year and is expected to surpass 45 million in 2035. Meanwhile, according to a study conducted by Gurkirpal Singh, MD, of Stanford University, hypoglycemia is the cause of roughly 270,000 annual hospitalizations, and cost the U.S. healthcare system more than $13 billion in 2009.

Glooko provides the device-agnostic technology by which a diabetic can take his or her blood sugar readings and share them with caregivers. Through the cloud-based HypoMap platform, which identifies when a hypoglycemic event has occurred, diabetics can answer questions about how, when and why that event occurred, and caregivers can use that data to refine management plans to prevent future events.

[See also: Diabetes pilot debuts in Mississippi and Joslin Diabetes Center, Phytel launch CME research project.]

“Patients rarely have an accurate recollection of the factors leading up to a hypoglycemia episode that occurred months before, and the opportunity to identify underlying causes and, therefore, prevent recurrences is lost,” said Howard Wolpert, MD, director of the Joslin Institute for Technology Translation, in a press release. “For the first time, clinicians can have substantive discussions about specific hypoglycemic events using key contextual data such as symptoms, causes and treatments recorded in real-time, and subsequently help patients to improve their diabetes self-management skills and prevent future episodes.”

More importantly, Altinger said, HypoMap can issue an alert when a hypoglycemic event has occurred, giving caregivers the opportunity to intervene immediately and prevent a hospitalization. In many cases, he pointed out, hypoglycemic events occur because a diabetic changes his or her routines, either through exercise or illness.

"This isn't about seeing a patient once or twice a year (and going over the numbers of the past few months); this is about continuous, mobile monitoring," he said.

This story was first published on mHealth News, sister publication of Healthcare IT News.

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