IBM, Medtronic Focus on Remote Diabetes Counseling

IBM Health and Medtronic have teamed up to create a patient-facing mobile technology with a one-on-one coaching component, to help patients better manage their diabetes while at home.

IBM Health and Medtronic have teamed up to create a patient-facing mobile technology with a one-on-one coaching component, to help patients better manage their diabetes while at home. The program, known as Medtronic Turning Point, was presented at the IBM booth during the HIMSS17 meeting.

The device used for the program consists of a Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose meter (BGM) and Medtronic's iPro 2 Professional Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) system. Additionally, using a telehealth solution on an App, a health coach educates the patient on how best to carry out their doctor's recommended care plan and provides exercise and nutrition counseling, along with real-time intervention based on the data points collected.

The need for a remote device to help control diabetes stems from the fact that over 90% of diabetes care is carried out by the patient at home. It is estimated by the American Diabetes Association (ADA) that managing diabetes costs nearly $175 billion a year in the United States, placing importance on ensuring this care is delivered appropriately. This is particularly true, as the number of new diabetes cases continues to skyrocket.

Prior to the HIMSS17 meeting, the system was piloted at Methodist Healthcare Ministries. Within the first 3 months of using the program, patients had an average 2% reduction in their A1C levels. There were improvements in A1C noted across 83% of participants. Furthermore, patients experienced weight loss and a decline in blood pressure and cholesterol. These drops were associated with nutrition and exercise counseling.

The goal of the system is to get A1C levels to below 7%, as recommended by the ADA. In a series of examples highlighted by IBM and Medtronic, the main benefits come from the education provided on diet and exercise. Additionally, as Watson digs into the data, other recommendations may begin to emerge.

The Medtronic Turning Point program is now being expanded to a greater number of health systems, thanks to the computing power and capabilities provided by IBM. Additionally, the collaboration with IBM Health has invoked the power of IBM Watson's cognitive computing capabilities. Medtronic has already built a database of over 125 million patient days, from its insulin pumps and glucose monitors alone, which Watson is analyzing.

“We believe that we can play a leadership role, but we can’t do it alone, and that’s where partnerships like the one we have with IBM come in,” Hooman Hakami, Executive Vice President and President, Medtronic Diabetes, said in an case study published to the Medtronic website. “So we can take their capability, apply it to the knowledge and the products and the capability that we have to try to do something truly transformational.”