Part 3 of 3

‘Leveling Up’ to Combat Diabetes

Cognitive computing can help advance personalized diabetes care

Diabetes is one of the most difficult diseases to manage. Almost every aspect of a diabetes patient’s day affects their immediate health. To manage their condition, patients need to track their sleep, exercise, blood glucose levels, insulin and their diet — including sugar intake, carbs, calories, fat, protein and portions. With this much to manage, it’s not surprising many patients tend to lapse in their self care.

Eddie Limon is a 28-year old living in San Antonio, Texas, who struggled with diabetes for years before he was even diagnosed. He finally learned he had the disease when he was rushed to the emergency room with an alarming blood-glucose level of 600 (5-times higher than what’s advised).

One of Eddie’s favorite activities is gaming — particularly Massive Multiplayer Online Gaming. He was part of a professionally-sponsored group that required 8+ hours of gaming each day. The lack of physical activity is not good for a diabetes patient. But there was one positive affect that would come as a result of Eddie’s gaming: the discipline and detail involved in advancing your game character to the next level.

Cognitive Focuses On Each Patient

A health advisor at the Wesley Health & Wellness Center encouraged Eddie to try the Medtronic Turning Point program. This program uses a Medtronic app to help patients monitor their diabetes. Through the app, the patient uploads their health data and communicates with a Health Partner who monitors their health data to provide guidance and support. The app is constantly feeding back to Eddie on his condition.

When you’re looking at the meter you only see one number at a time. But when you look at a spreadsheet of all your numbers, it kinda hits you more.”

Over the course of a day, Eddie uses the Medtronic Turning Point App to track his medication, calorie intake, blood-glucose readings and the number of steps he’s taken that day. It’s the ability to visually track his personal progress that motivates Eddie to keep going forward.

IBM Watson is working with Medtronic to enhance the solution used by Eddie by developing a new generation of personalized diabetes care management tools. IBM can apply cognitive computing to patient data to help identify individuals at high-risk for hospital readmission due to diabetes. Using the resulting cognitive insights, Medtronic can provide an integrated and personalized care program to healthcare systems, to assist people with diabetes and help reduce cost of care.

‘Leveling Up’ His Care

The program has encouraged Eddie to drastically cut down on soda, carbs and sugars. He uses the app at restaurants to track a meal’s calories, carbs, protein and fat — or at a grocery store to help plan healthier meals for him and his 7-year old daughter, Serenity, who has helped Eddie get outside for more physical activity.

In just six months, the results have been incredible. Eddie’s A1C has dropped from 12.1% to 7.2%. (A1C is a measure of a person’s average level of blood glucose, also called blood sugar, over 3 months. The target A1C for people with diabetes is 7%.) Eddie says what helped the most was simply retraining his habits with the feedback and resources he needs to track his progress.