IBM Watson Health Releases Diabetes App, Touts Power of Data

Jack Murtha

The AI company promoted its approach to fighting the disease at ADA 2018.

For some time, IBM Watson Health has homed in on diabetes, hoping to use its artificial intelligence (AI) and digital health tools to combat a chronic disease that affects at least 30.3 million US residents and is the seventh leading cause of death.

Throughout the years, the company has forged strategic partnerships, conducted studies, and developed technologies to further its presence in a market with great earning and patient-outcomes potential. At the American Diabetes Association’s (ADA) 78th Scientific Sessions, IBM Watson Health displayed its latest advances, including the launch of a commercial diabetes-management app called Sugar.IQ with Watson and study findings promoting the power of its data-driven and high-tech tools.

>> READ: How Sanofi and IBM Watson Unearthed a New Diabetes Finding

“Data-driven technologies like AI, machine learning, and analytics are changing the way people manage their health today, and the launch of the Sugar.IQ app with Watson is an indication of where the future of disease management is headed,” Kyu Rhee, MD, MPP, IBM Watson Health’s vice president and chief health officer, said in a statement.

Sugar.IQ with Watson has been in the works since at least last February, when IBM and Medtronic announced they had teamed up to work on a patient-facing app with a one-on-one coaching component. The resultant mobile health (mHealth) app connects with the Guardian Connect Continuous Glucose Monitoring system, examining glucose and insulin levels, food, and real-time and historical data, according to IBM. The goal: “give users a better understanding of how lifestyle choices, medications, and multiple daily injections impact diabetes management.”

Watson’s technologies personalize insights for each user, ultimately aiding them in their push to enter and remain in desirable target ranges, according to IBM.

Medtronic revealed new data on Sugar.IQ at ADA 2018, finding that patients who used the app in a study spent 36 more minutes in their target glucose range than before. IBM noted that the time adds up to nine additional days per year.

During ADA 2018, Watson Health also spotlighted findings that its technologies helped researchers reach.

First, investigators for the ADA and IBM found that 31 percent of patients with type 2 diabetes stopped using their medications within 3 months, a figure that climbed to 44 percent by six months and 58 percent by a year. IBM said the study, which comprised more than 324,000 patients, suggests healthcare needs interventions to solve this problem and prevent associated problems.

Next, ADA and IBM researchers compared patient outcomes from the company’s claims data to examine how machine learning can help identify potential therapeutic benefits. They found that certain medication classes for type 2 diabetes are “associated with fewer instances of cardiovascular events, including heart failure, heart attacks, and strokes.”

The display of might comes at a time when the larger IBM Watson is under the microscope. Following layoffs there, reporters, former engineers, and industry observers have taken a skeptical look at the company, wondering whether the move symbolized bigger issues within the organization. IBM Watson has argued against that narrative, and a Wall Street analyst confirmed that the layoffs appeared typical.

For more information on IBM Watson Health’s showing at ADA 2018, check out its full announcement.

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