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12/5/2014
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Steve Robinson
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Enlist Mobile Apps In Diabetes Fight

Mobile apps can help diabetes sufferers get ahead of their symptoms and live healthier, more carefree lives.

Although it is often overshadowed by other serious diseases, virus outbreaks, and various mainstream malaises, diabetes is one of the greatest epidemics of our generation. And the prognosis remains grim: according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately 40% of Americans will develop Type 2 diabetes, the most common form, according to the Centers' "National Diabetes Statistics Report, 2014."

Doctors, researchers, and healthcare professionals all diligently work to better shape prevention strategies, but the reality is that those diagnosed with the disease must cope with it. To date, there are more than 29 million in the US and over 350 million worldwide diagnosed with diabetes.

Characterized by the inability to properly use insulin, diabetes causes glucose to build up. This immediately starves cells for energy and, over time, damages the eyes, kidneys, nerves, or heart. To combat the health decline that diabetes can cause, individuals can manage their disease through daily oral medications, blood glucose testing, and healthy lifestyle choices. 

Unfortunately, many patients struggle with the inconvenience and potential inaccuracies inherent in handwritten treatment plans and blood sugar logs, and guessed biometric data, plus manual (and often inaccurate) estimates at dosage amounts and times. According to the American Diabetes Association, poor management of the disease can cause additional -- and perhaps more severe -- health complications, including high blood pressure, stroke, kidney disease, and heart disease.

[Will health data ever be connected in a useful way? Read Human API CEO On Unifying Health Data.]

But there is hope, thanks to cloud and mobile. Using cloud services, combined with the ease and convenience of mobile, new methods of managing this disease are being brought to patients around the world, offering them unprecedented levels of flexibility and precision whether they are at home or traveling, on their mobile device or on their laptop.

myDiabetizer, developed by German-based healthcare technology company Diabetizer, is a prime example. Using IBM's Bluemix platform for cloud-based analytics, Diabetizer has built an app that diabetics can use to instantly access and aggregate their health data from devices anywhere in the world, as well as apply data analytics to control their blood sugar at accurate levels. So, if a user is out to dinner and wants to know if it's safe to order dessert, he or she can use a mobile device to immediately log and view blood sugar levels or the nutritional impact of the food consumed at dinner, ensuring accuracy by linking into the rest of that day's data stored on a tablet at home. myDiabetizer recently was recognized by the World Health Organization for the accurate information it gives diabetes patients.

Image: Wikimedia Commons
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Here are just a few examples of what diabetes management apps like myDiabetizer can do when they tap into today's cloud and mobile advances. They can:

-- Aggregate logged blood sugar and nutritional and health data from multiple platforms and devices, including a patient's laptop or phone, into one central mobile portal, accessible from anywhere in the world, thereby simplifying records, eating decisions, and doctor-patient conversations.

-- Tap into the Internet of Things to integrate biometric data from wearable devices directly into patient data, analyzing physical activity along with blood sugar levels and other data to gain a holistic view of the diabetic's overall health.

-- Crunch and analyze patient data at rapid speeds to help identify patterns and predict future health and treatment needs, as well as give patients both broad and granular views into the past days and weeks of treatment to contrast against current blood sugar levels.

In other words, apps like myDiabetizer have the ability to combine a clear evaluation of blood glucose readings with professional documentation for doctors and diabetologists; they can automatically import measurement data and set key parameters based on individual patient needs. These apps can synchronize readings taken by blood glucose measuring devices on patients' phones and provide another layer of health intelligence by applying analytics to this mobile data.

Healthcare technology developers are quickly realizing the power of the cloud to reshape treatment tools. Patients are allowed a greater share of the management of their disease. The more visibility patients have into their conditions, the more likely they are to regain control of epidemics including diabetes.

Equally as important, applying cloud and mobile to these types of health apps gives millions of diabetics the opportunity to regain mobility, stick to a consistent treatment plan and, ultimately, enjoy an improved standard of living. The need for constant calculations, access to records, and data logging is diminished from an intense daily burden to a manageable part of life.

The owners of electronic health records aren't necessarily the patients. How much control should they have? Get the new Who Owns Patient Data? issue of InformationWeek Healthcare today.

Steve Robinson is the general manager of the Cloud Platform Services Division for the IBM Software Group. He was among those responsible for launching Bluemix, IBM's first platform as a service, as well as transforming IBM's middleware portfolio into compose-able services. He ... View Full Bio
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PedroGonzales
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PedroGonzales,
User Rank: Ninja
12/6/2014 | 9:49:22 PM
Re: Personal data, personal devices, more personal care
This is great news.  Current app development would really help individuals manage their health condition.  I wonder whether employers or state government programs would provide such tools in order for people to manage their health.  I think in lower income communitites such health conditions will be more dominant than others.  These communities would really need such health management tools
Charlie Babcock
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Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
12/5/2014 | 2:16:05 PM
Personal data, personal devices, more personal care
Kaiser Permanente and other cooperative health care systems are looking to make much greater use of personal data collection apps to increase the quality of care for its members. What Steve Robinson is talking about for diabetes fits into larger health care plans as well. See http://www.informationweek.com/cloud/software-as-a-service/kaiser-shifts-to-preventive-care-in-mobile-apps/d/d-id/899813
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