Lately it seems like every tech company is getting into the mobile game. With mobile applications that do everything from calculating your tip to identifying the song blaring from the next car over, it's no wonder diabetes companies are getting involved with mobile programs designed to help manage your diabetes.
For most people, the cell phone is one of the only gadgets everyone understands and uses every day. There are several companies that have utilized the wide world of iPhone applications, but new-kid-on-the-diabetes-block WellDoc, a Baltimore-based company, has created a new mobile product designed for any phone, called WellDoc's Diabetes Manager.
The WellDoc demo (which you can watch here) describes a scenario of John, a type 2 diabetic, and Dr. Smith, an endocrinologist. John has "poorly controlled diabetes," with an A1C over 9, and only sees Dr. Smith for 15 minutes every few months. (Sound familiar?)
For the patient, the WellDoc Diabetes Manager system acts as a mobile CDE / mom:
- It reminds you when to test
- It receives blood glucose readings from a bluetooth-enabled meter or from manual input
- It analyzes the data and provides real-time feedback
- It provides a food database to prevent over treating hypoglycemia
- It asks questions about what caused low or high blood sugars and suggests areas of needed education
- It alerts when you need to retest
For the doctor, the WellDoc system aims to provide quick access to this detailed information on a patient, in order to make better decisions faster — with time of course being such a limited commodity in most health care settings. Every six weeks (or as often as you request), the WellDoc Diabetes Manager sends an electronic "logbook" and accompanying analysis to your doctor and diabetes educator. The analysis is created using Welldoc's proprietary statistical models.
Both patient and authorized providers can log on to view the electronic logbook online any time they like, of course.
WellDoc's laudable goals are to promote a healthier patient and a more successful diabetes clinic. They believe this phone-based system can in fact have some very significant impact: 1) it could result in fewer occurrences of hospitalizations (which makes the insurance companies and employers happy), and 2) they estimate that it could save patients, caregivers, doctors, the government, insurance companies and employers a whopping $27 billion (with $13 billion just for the government). That's a pretty big claim! It would be quite impactful if a system like this could save even half that amount.
My big question was: How are they getting doctors on board, considering that most are uninterested / unwilling to use fancy new technology like this — especially when insurers are not reimbursing them for time spent thereupon?
A company VP responds that they recognize this challenge, and they're on it, of course: "We are working with various business models through pilot projects to determine payment scenarios. We are also having conversations about reimbursement for e-visits with various professional groups — obviously an effort that needs many collaborators."
Currently WellDoc is in clinical trials to study the progress on A1C results over 3, 6 and 12 months. They have partnered with several companies in the diabetes and health community, including CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield. The trials are expected to wrap up in the first quarter of this year, so we should be expecting results soon.
To my mind, this product is probably best suited for people who do not require especially tailored feedback on their diabetes, or who are new to the disease and need some friendly reminders. However, since most of us fail at the whole "logbook" keeping business, having another option to keep track of our ever-changing blood sugars and having someone knowledgeable analyze the data regularly might be a pretty sweet deal for a lot of people with little time! Which, when I think about it, is basically everyone...
You get a double-C for Cool Concept, WellDoc.