Diabetes may not have a medically approved cure yet, but it sure can be turned a few knobs down with a well-balanced diet, regular exercise, and medication. Of course, one should follow a doctor’s advice for a lifestyle change. In the real world though, you look longingly at those French fries and convince yourself a few wouldn’t harm. Or you hit the snooze button and tell yourself, I will go for that long run tomorrow. And on and on you go, till your next visit to the Principal’s office, aka your doctor, where you hope miraculously for an improved report card. You are not alone my friend. Sticking to a regime requires discipline or an occasional reminder from your wellwishers (if you were me). A sight towards your goal and how far you have come in conquering it help matters further. Thankfully, plenty of new-age start-ups are here to make diabetes management and lifestyle changes easier.
Take for instance Life In Control and Wellthy Therapeutics. These digital platforms connect patients with doctors and coaches and provide personalized care in terms of diet and exercise plan. Users can create long-term health goals, follow-up daily tasks and keep tabs on their health profile including HbA1C and glucose levels, track medicines intake and understand how their daily routine affect these measures. These start-ups also give doctors the flexibility of reaching out to patients outside their clinical hours as well as to create and coach them on their personalized care plans. In the language of numbers, Life In Control has over 100 doctors on the platform and appears to have helped over a lakh patient with their app. Wellthy Therapeutics took the approach of a pilot program with diabetic patients and claims to have helped reduce both HbA1C levels by a little over 1% and an average weight reduction of 3.4 kgs over 16 weeks. It also got an endorsement by Asia’s largest diabetes association, Research Society for the Study of Diabetes in India. Both the apps are available for download on Android and iOS platforms.
Adding to the growing list of startups are those that detect blood glucose and connect directly to your smartphone. BioSense SYNC, for instance, is a compact Glucometer with Bluetooth connectivity to a user’s phone. It provides a detailed analysis of blood sugar data collected over a number of days. Similar to other diabetes management apps, a user can map their glucose data with their eating and exercising habits. Taking these interventions a step further, the start-up BeatO not only provides a smartphone Glucometer but also a range of diabetic friendly food products to munch upon. Patients can order medicines, sync their fitness devices and count calories on food items consumed. As of today, BeatO has served more than 25000 customers with a daily user add-on of 75-100. Most of these diabetes management apps can instantly connect a patient to a diabetic coach in case the sugar levels are off, and alert the patient’s family as well on concerning trends.
Complimenting these health management gurus, patients are also likely to benefit if there were devices providing at home diagnosis for diabetic complications, such as neuropathy, kidney malfunction or diabetic retinopathy. Scintiglo by Cutting Edge Medical Devices, Anupath by PathShodh and Sparsha by Yostra Labs have created Point of Care (PoC) tests to detect the first two complications. Scintiglo is a small handheld device that detects urinary proteins (should be trace levels in a healthy individual) at a low cost with remarkable accuracy and connects to a smartphone through a custom app. Anupath uses unique test strips for detection of specific biomarkers of diabetes, while also eliminating the need of usual sample preparation that one sees in clinics. Patients can get a comprehensive reading of their plasma and urine protein levels, HbA1c levels blood glucose and hemoglobin. While Sparsha, as the name suggests, focuses on touch-based tests that can diagnose diabetic peripheral neuropathy and send reports via users’ smartphone. Funded by the Department of Biotechnology grant (BIRAC), these start-ups focus on low-cost solutions, so an average user can save money on constant check-ups. Low costs also allow these start-ups to cater to rural segments of India, where a healthcare worker can refer patients to tertiary hospitals based on initial reports by these devices.
The complication of retinopathy, as mentioned above, relates to the slowly progressive disease of the eye and is one of the leading causes of blindness in diabetic patients. This segment is addressed by start-ups like ChironX and Artelus that use artificial intelligence to detect or monitor diabetic retinopathy risks from retinal image scans. Both the start-ups have achieved high accuracy of detection (over 95%) while the technology of AI confers an easy benefit of scanning retinas at a much faster speed to doctors and hospitals. Artelus also boasts to have saved over 3900 eyes so far from diabetic complications.
Given the burden of diabetes in every aspect of life (behavioral, physiological and financial), being handheld into recovery could be motivating for many patients. For maximum impact, we need to reach the furthest demographic corners of India, as diabetes has a growing prevalence in all sectors of the country. Infact, why wait for diabetes to knock at your door? One can also mitigate pre-diabetic conditions or reduce the chances of developing diabetes later in life. These start-ups aim to provide that ecosystem, where a patient can be led into an improved, healthy lifestyle at minimal costs. And just as it is heartening to see the growing awareness of Indians towards their health, it is equally imperative that these solutions are also as democratic as possible. Importantly in a booming start-up scenario, maintaining data integrity, complete transparency between doctors, patients and companies as well as strict adherence to ethical standards would go a long way in ensuring patient trust in this system.
About the author
Urvashi (Raheja) Bhattacharyya is a Biomedical Science graduate from Delhi University and a Ph.D. from National Centre for Biological Sciences. When not running behind her toddler, she spends time reading stuff about the brain, AI, ML, and latest innovations. Writing keeps her calm.
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InnoHEALTH Magazine | Volume 4 Issue 1 | Innovation in Diabetes – Unmet Needs
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