Will the Apple Watch Transform Diabetes Management?

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Joslin does not endorse specific products or companies. This post is meant to be informational only. 

After much speculation, Apple announced the release of the highly anticipated Apple Watch in September.  Similar to other smartwatches, one Watch feature streamlines all of your health metrics into an easy-to-use device, providing users with a comprehensive overview of their personal health status. For the diabetes community, this new installment from Apple is especially enticing as the Watch can display blood glucose levels by pulling data from third party diabetes apps.

According to Howard Wolpert, M.D., Director of the Joslin Institute for Technology Translation (JITT), while the Watch has the potential to enhance diabetes care in the digital realm, it is still lacking crucial functionalities that prevent the Watch, and similar devices, from serving as a sufficient replacement for current technologies, such as continuous glucose monitors.
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“I think this has tremendous potential,” he explained. “But for patients to effectively use this information, the information collected needs to be analyzed to identify patterns and this needs to be coupled to specific guidance and feedback to patients around their diabetes self-care.”

Along with the Watch, Apple launched a new platform, HealthKit, where health and fitness tracking apps can share information with the new Health app and with each other. The Health app is also able to showcase a user’s health information in a centralized and secure location, such as the Watch, and users can choose what data will be shared with the app.

Apple collaborated with Mayo Clinic and Epic Systems to create Health and HealthKit and while these partnerships provide new and innovative ways to improve access to care, they also pose regulatory issues. Dr. Wolpert cautions that with diabetes, companies such as Apple do not, “always recognize the challenges associated with developing individualized tools for diabetes care.”
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Another obstacle is the possibility to overburden patients and providers with excessive information, making it difficult for both parties to decipher how to best use the data to benefit a patient’s health.

“One of the drawbacks with all the data collected with multiple sensors using wearable technology is overloading the patient and caregiver with too much information,” said Dr. Wolpert.  “It can be counterproductive if the information is not processed and analyzed, and if the treatment recommendations are realistic and manageable for the patient. The benefit derived from using the technology needs to outweigh any additional burden that might go along with the use of the technology.”
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Despite these challenges, devices like the Apple Watch have made the process of tracking health and fitness data a norm in today’s society.

“This makes looking at and collecting data ‘cool,’” said Stephanie Edwards, MPH, Project Manager for JITT. “Before health and fitness tracking devices, it would be incredibly labor intensive to track health data. But this is normal now, to be collecting data about your health and sharing it with your friends, even though people with diabetes have been doing this forever.”
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Despite how easy is it is to collect health data with wearable technology devices, the challenge of how to integrate this information into our current models of care still remains.

“The role for Joslin, and other providers, is once all this data is collected, to find out who the data goes to,” said Dr. Wolpert.  “We also need to determine the system for assessing the data and providing guidance. For example, all this glucose data is dumped into electronic medical records, but what’s the value and liability?”
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New technology has created the framework for developing a digital health system around diabetes care, but Dr. Wolpert advises that for wearable technology to become more widely used within the diabetes community these devices will need to provide insights on a variety of factors affecting people with diabetes.

Dr. Wolpert and members of the JITT team are devising a way to offer these insights with the Joslin HypoMap™ powered by Glooko, which is a self-management tool in the form of an app that serves as a hypoglycemia tracker.

“What we are working on now is pulling together activity and glucose data, so one can identify the relationship between different activities and the risk for hypoglycemia,” explained Dr. Wolpert. “This will create a powerful system for wearable technology platforms, like the Apple Watch. If the data can be collected more easily and more seamlessly, it’s going to become more widely used.”
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“This is setting the stage for a transformation for the way healthcare is delivered, particularly for people with diabetes who often need around the clock guidance,” he concluded.

While the Apple Watch and health tracking apps have the potential to revolutionize the way health information is monitored and utilized, we will have to watch and see what the future holds for wearable technology and diabetes care.

4 Responses to Will the Apple Watch Transform Diabetes Management?

  1. joseph says:

    wow, this is so good. how long will it take to come in kenya after your aproval.we are waitting joslin to aproove this gadget it gonna be helpful esp to we young turks.

  2. Francesco says:

    Diabetes Meter to turn your Smartphone into a Smart SUGAR METER with a very compact and easy to use APP.

    I wanted to share with you a great diabetes meter to turn your smartphone into a smart sugar meter with a very compact and easy to use app.
    Please check this out: http://mydario.com/

  3. Jeff Sepeta says:

    Isn’t it named the Apple Watch? iWatch is not the name.
    http://www.entrepreneur.com/article/237278

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