Philips, Salesforce develop diabetes app, system to marry consumer and medical data

Royal Philips ($PHG) aims to roll out a series of programs for chronic diseases that marry consumer-oriented device data with the electronic medical record. The idea is to give patients and healthcare providers access to all the relevant data and analysis to improve self-care and medical care.

A patient uses Philips' diabetes management program prototype.--Courtesy of Philips

This effort comes shockingly into focus when you consider that half the U.S. population has a chronic disease--and that's a dated figure that goes back to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate from 2012. Among the most common chronic conditions are heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, obesity and arthritis.

Philips is starting first with diabetes. It's a good choice given the enormous complexity of disease management and the relatively ineffective care most patients are receiving, as well as the rapidly expanding population. The connected digital health platform for diabetes is still a prototype with the first phase focused on Type I patients, after being developed by Philips and Salesforce in conjunction with Radboud University Medical Center in the Netherlands. It is expected to be available in "limited markets" before year end.

The Philips system includes a patient app and online community. It will connect to the patient's electronic medical record, as well as multiple personal health devices such as blood glucose monitors and activity trackers. It also allows patients to input self-reported data on aspects including food choices and insulin use.

The data is set up to be integrated and analyzed to aid healthcare providers and patients in day-to-day decision-making; it's accessible via a smartphone or tablet app. The system can also help coordinate care across multiple providers--diabetes care can involve as many as 10 different caregivers to address the various issues that can arise including those with vision, diet, and skin as well as mental and psychological issues. Healthcare providers can contact patients directly via the system if they are straying outside their designated parameters.

Despite recent activity, diabetes device connectivity remains astonishingly low. This makes it difficult for that data to be useful beyond a single moment in time for healthcare providers or patients.

Jeroen Tas

"Most glucose meters aren't connected," noted Philips CEO of Healthcare Informatics Jeroen Tas in an interview with FierceMedicalDevices. "There are a couple of glucose meters that allow streaming, some via USB, and there are also the continuous meters. We've developed the site so patients can manually or voice-enter data. We believe the accuracy will get better when we can read directly from the device."

In addition to indication-specific programs, Philips also plans dual-focus programs for patients with two related chronic conditions, as well as wellness programs to prevent progression from a predisease state like prediabetes or being overweight to the full-blown problem.

Informatics is key to Philips' vision of itself as a company focused on HealthTech--a shift the conglomerate started more than a year ago. Tas is heading up its informatics initiatives, which also include efforts to more effectively manage everything from cancer care that integrates digital pathology, genomics and imaging; to transitioning intensive-care patients back home; and even fall prediction for elderly Lifeline users based on fall history and changes in gait and speed.

Tas' own daughter is an adult Type 1 diabetic. She was one of the patients included in the system development--and Tas said that his experience with her disease when she was a child greatly informed his knowledge of what is needed.

"If you look at the everyday life of a diabetic patient, they need to make a lot of decisions a day. They need to watch what they eat, how they move and what they do to address the disease," Tas observed, adding that the level of complexity can inhibit provider decision-making, as well as the patients' day-to-day life.

"We haven't yet seen clinical data tied with personal data, where caregivers can talk to each other," said Tas. "We believe this is a new model of care."

Almost 400 million people worldwide are afflicted with diabetes, with those numbers only rising. Even worse, an estimated one-half of diabetes patients have poorly controlled blood glucose levels--and that's across the spectrum of disease severity. That puts them at risk for treatment escalation and increasingly serious complications that can result in permanent losses such as blindness or amputation.

- here is the announcement