Will Wearable Technology Help Improve Patient Outcomes for Chronic Conditions?

Patients with diabetes could benefit greatly from technological advances.

According to the CDC, 29.1 million people have diabetes in the United States. Only 21 million are diagnosed, which leaves 8.1 million people undiagnosed (27.8%). An additional 86 million are pre-diabetic, while 1.9 billion adults are overweight and 600 million adults are obese. The prevalence of obesity has nearly doubled over the past few years.

Currently, there is a lot of work ongoing between healthcare and technology companies to help eradicate this issue. Medtronics, Fitbit, IBM Watson, and Apple hope to combine wearable technology with data analytics to better improve outcomes in patients with chronic conditions such as diabetes.

Compliance has always been an issue with wearable technologies. Consumers aren’t wearing their technology on a daily basis. Research has showed 1 of 10 consumers who have Fitbit do not wear their device on a consistent basis. Developing smaller sensors for these wearable technologies is where these developers are headed.

Dexcom (Continuous Glucose Monitoring)

The Dexcom G5 Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) System provides real-time glucose readings for patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes every 5 minutes. With Dexcom G5 Mobile, dynamic glucose data can be accessed and shared safely and conveniently anywhere, anytime to your smart device. The Dexcom G5 Mobile is the only CGM system approved for adults and pediatric patients age 2 and older.

Video: https://www.dexcom.com/continuous-glucose-monitoring

Future Healthcare Technology

Medtronics has a partnership with IBM that will leverage the artificial intelligence powers of Watson. With Watson, they will analyze electronic medical records data and use this population information to develop a real-time personalized care for the patient. The recent real-time launch was the development of a cognitive app called SugarIQ.

This app detects important patterns and trends for people with diabetes. It uses real-time continuous glucose monitoring and insulin information from Medtronic insulin pump and glucose sensors. It leverages IBM cognitive computing power, combined with Medtronic’s expertise in diabetes.

SugarIQ includes features that will send personalized messages in real-time to help people understand how specific actions and habits can affect their blood glucose levels. It also adds features ,such as Glycemic Assist and Food Logging, for an easier way to track and control a food log, which will illustrate how certain foods can impact a diabetic.

Apple is currently working on a technology for the Apple Watch that involves measuring blood glucose levels. They're looking at a non-invasive continuous glucose monitor sensor that doesn’t involve pricking of the finger (invasive). Apple is trying to figure out a way to develop an optical sensor to read glucose levels by shining light through the skin and integrate that data with the data on the Apple Watch.

Novartis is currently working with Verily Life Sciences on smart contact lenses that you put in your eyes and measures blood sugar levels through your tears. They're hoping it changes color if it’s not within normal level ranges.

Merck and Amazon challenge developers to build Alexa apps for patients with diabetes. Their plans are to harness artificial intelligence for diabetics. The contest will aim to help incentivize upstarts and individual developers to create apps that harness Amazon’s Alexa voice-enabled technologies specifically for patients recently diagnosed with type 2 diabetes.


Being able to analyze healthcare analytics and translate it into improved patient outcomes will become increasingly important for healthcare professionals. There is a mountain full of healthcare data that tends to make it look like a giant puzzle.

As healthcare providers we can see some of the moving pieces, such as prescriptions, medical images, and test results, but there is still a lot of data available that were missing. We have to be able to see the complete picture. The amount of valuable health data continues to grow, with experts estimating it to double in the next few years.

Concerns of Healthcare Technology

· Accuracy of the data: concerns that it may not be healthcare quality accurate

· Security and privacy concerns: sharing of information on who does and who does not get to see it

· Patient adherence: will patients be willing to wear these technologies all the time for it to be collected as accurate data.

We want to make sure we can marry healthcare outcomes with wearable technology that really resonates with consumers.

Resources used:

1. http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/statistics/?loc=db-slabnav

2. https://www.dexcom.com/g5-mobile-cgm

3. https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/blog/first-live-experience-of-sugar-iq-with-watson-for-people-with-diabetes/

4. https://www.medtronicdiabetes.com/blog/cognitive-computing-for-improved-diabetes-outcomes-part-ii-the-healthcare-system/

5. http://www.mobihealthnews.com/content/merck-amazon-challenge-developers-build-alexa-apps-diabetes

6. The Motley Fool Podcast: Healthcare: Will Wearable Technology Makes Us Healthier

Brandon Welch is the executive vice president of the American Pharmacy Purchasing Alliance and sits on the Advisory Board of Digital Marketing for the University of South Florida​, where he is a PharmD candidate.