Why mHealth can help diabetes sufferers live better lives

Mobile solutions will become passports to independence for those suffering from chronic conditions, enabling more rewarding and productive lives. That’s certainly the message from the technology that was tested during the third mHealth Grand tour (September 3-12).

With support from Orange, twenty type-1 diabetes suffering cyclists rode 1,500km across some of the most beautiful parts of Europe, from Brussels to Paris and then Geneva. Such a lengthy ride is challenging for anybody, but can be a huge task for diabetics suffering unpredictable blood-sugar levels.

To help manage this, the riders were equipped with innovative mobile health technologies that enable them to stay in control of their conditions.

These include the Dexcom G4 blood glucose reader and devices developed by Tapcheck and Basis that measure calorie burn and heart rate. All the data collected by these devices is shared with and visualized using Orange’s mHealth GT Gateway app.

At a breakfast meeting held to start the tour, Afke Schaart, Vice President Europe, GSMA, says “the case for mobile in managing day-to-day health conditions has never been stronger.”

Diabetes sufferers must prick their fingertip several times each day in order to monitor their blood sugar levels. The riders on the tour were equipped with state-of-the-art continuous glucose monitors, small coin-sized sensor patches worn directly on the skin on the stomach or arm to measure glucose levels.

“The patient’s ability to take responsibility and self-manage is paramount, but mobile solutions allow more independent monitoring and more active engagement with health professionals,” observes Gérard Raymond, General Secretary of French Diabetics Federation, AFD.

Making this information available means riders can refer to it whenever they like, empowering them to better manage their condition. The technology also provides them with personalized coaching and nutritional advice to help boost performance and protect against health issues.

The impact of mHealth isn’t merely about self-care, of course.

The data gathered by the Orange Health Cloud and shared with riders is also made available for remote monitoring by health professionals. This means medical professionals could monitor patient data to detect signs of any emerging health challenges, providing a better sense of security to the riders. In future, of course, it’s possible data like this may be analysed by neural learning systems like Watson Health Cloud, enabling discovery of hitherto unrecognized patterns.

Solutions like these are likely to become critical to the treatment of chronic conditions in future, and may well save lives.

The International Diabetes Federation estimates nearly 592 million people will be diabetic by 2035. The condition already affects over 387 million people – around 8.7 percent of the world’s population.

“When someone is suffering from diabetes, they have to face the condition every day, and at any moment. Now that we all have a mobile phone in our pocket, we’ve got a tool which can really help people”, says Viet-Dung Dam, who is in charge of the mHealth Grand Tour project for Orange.

These solutions will have impact on the lives of sufferers from other chronic conditions in future, from heart disease to epilepsy and beyond.

You can learn more about the tour here. Take a look at some amazing wearable devices that may change lives and please explore the work of Orange Healthcare.

Jon Evans

Jon Evans is a highly experienced technology journalist and editor. He has been writing for a living since 1994. These days you might read his daily regular Computerworld AppleHolic and opinion columns. Jon is also technology editor for men's interest magazine, Calibre Quarterly, and news editor for MacFormat magazine, which is the biggest UK Mac title. He's really interested in the impact of technology on the creative spark at the heart of the human experience. In 2010 he won an American Society of Business Publication Editors (Azbee) Award for his work at Computerworld.