The painful prick of diabetes and the app set to streamline treatment

By Ellen Singleton

20 September 2016

Diabetes blood glucose testing kit

A new app for Type 2 diabetics will improve data collection and help prevent complications that can arise from the disease.

The Australian Government Department of Health estimate there are over 1.1 million of us that are suffering from diabetes, so it’s not a far stretch of the imagination to assume that either you or someone you know has been diagnosed with the disease. There is currently no cure, and managing the treatment of the potentially life threatening disease is constant for both patients, carers and medical staff.

Working at our Australian eHealth Research Centre and with the University of Queensland Centre for Online Health, Dr Farhad Fatehi has created a new app that is set to transform and streamline patient care for sufferers of type 2 diabetes in Australia.

What is Diabetes?

Before we get too ahead of ourselves, we thought it might be a good refresher to go over just what diabetes is, and the three different types (yes, there are three, not two!) that millions of Australians are currently suffering from.

Type 1

Type 1 diabetes is an auto-immune condition, where the body destroys the pancreatic cells that produce insulin. The cause of this auto-immune reaction remains unknown and there is no known cure. It cannot be prevented by, or linked to, specific lifestyle factors. Once diagnosed, sufferers of type 1 diabetes depend on insulin injections every day for the rest of their lives.

Type 2

Type 2 diabetes occurs when the body becomes progressively resistant to insulin and/or the pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin. Treating type 2 diabetes can be managed by regular physical activity, healthy eating, weight reduction and insulin injections/medication. It currently makes up 85-90 per cent of diabetes diagnoses in Australia.

Gestation

Gestational diabetes occurs during pregnancy when there is extra demand for insulin production. Blood glucose levels must be monitored and can be managed with healthy eating, physical activity and in some cases insulin injections. Once the baby is born, insulin injections are no longer required.

Data, Doctors & Diabetes

All diabetics need to control their blood sugar (glucose) levels – this means they have to balance their food intake and physical activity, as well as any diabetes medication they might be taking. If diabetics don’t keep their glucose levels within a specified range there can be myriad complications, ranging from high blood pressure, heart attacks, amputations, blindness and kidney failure.

Recognising all three types of diabetes on the rise in Australia, and seeing several family members diagnosed with the disease, Dr Fatehi set about creating a new app that will improve data collection and help prevent complications that arise from diabetes. Patients are currently required to hand write the results of their blood glucose tests and then send these on to their doctor for assessment, which can sometimes lead to errors and a slower response to potential complications.

Diabetes Type 2 graph on mobile phone via app

Dr Fartehi’s app can provide real time updates to health care professionals. Image – Fresh Science

“With the new app, blood glucose readings can be blue-toothed directly from the glucose meter to the mobile phone or tablet and then to their treating doctors or nurses who can receive the results in real time,” says Dr Fatehi.

“This means health professionals can be alerted almost immediately to any out of range blood sugar levels. Complications like amputations, blindness and kidney failure may be more easily avoided.”

The app will provide real time updates to doctors and nurses, resulting in faster and more accurate responses to complications when they arise.

The app is currently still in its clinical trial phase, and Dr. Fatehi hopes to increase the app’s capability to conduct doctors’ appointments via video call once the app is approved and released to public.

Check out other ways we’re using technology to improve the health and well-being of the nation here.