Managing Diabetes and Preventing Complications with Smartphones and Sensors

| September 09, 2012

Smartphones apps and sensor-enabled technologies are helping people manage their diabetes, prevent complications, and communicate more effectively with their doctors. A recent report suggests that more health insurers willing to pay for them. 

As smartphones and personal computers make a home for themselves in the health care arena, people with diabetes are finding a variety of high-tech ways to manage their conditions. And, according to at least one report, health insurers are taking notice.

WellDoc and Sugar: Collecting Information Wirelessly

The WellDoc DiabetesManager system lets patients use a smartphone app, standard cellphone or desktop computer to collect information about their diet, blood sugar levels and medication regimen. Patients can enter this data manually, or wirelessly connect their computer or cell phone to their personal glucose monitors and weight scales.

DiabetesManager uses its algorithms to give personalized nutrition advice to patients and to send clinical recommendations to their doctors. The application has already led to drastic drops in the levels of hemoglobin A1C, according to a recent study. A similar technology solution, aptly named “Sugar,” sends messages to the patient when it senses that blood sugar levels are out of balance. The Sugar app also helps patients monitor the size and status of their foot ulcers.

Bath Mat with Sensors

A sensor-enabled bath mat from Podimetrics is designed to predict and prevent foot ulcers. These ulcers account for 85% of lower leg amputations in the U.S., according to MedCityNews.

It takes only 30 seconds for the mat’s sensors to scan a user’s feet and collect data about blood flow. When the device detects a pre-ulcer, it sends an alert to the patient and doctor. Early intervention can often prevent serious complications.

Pinprick-Free Testing

Another sensor-enabled device detects tiny concentrations of glucose in saliva, tears and urine. The device may eventually eliminate or reduce the need for diabetes testing that involves painful pinpricks, according to Futurity. Up until now, tech developers have had a hard time getting sensors to distinguish between glucose and other compounds found in the blood.

Regulators and Insurers Showing Interest

The advent of health-related software applications has raised the real possibility that physicians could soon be prescribing mobile apps for their patients, according to The New York Times. The Food and Drug Administration has already expressed its interest in vetting such devices and monitoring their proper use. Now, health insurers are showing an interest in deploying and paying for mobile health apps that increase health and reduce health care costs.

A new report examines how 40 insurers are using consumer technologies to encourage beneficiaries to take part in programs that help them achieve wellness or manage chronic diseases. Technical improvements in many mobile health devices are contributing to their popularity. 

In addition, rising adoption rates and decreasing costs are helping health insurers to see the benefits of deploying these technologies, reports Health Care IT News. Many payers are working with third parties or developing applications on their own. A few insurance carriers have even acquired software companies.