Apps, IoT… How Roche puts digital technology at the heart of diabetes care

Diabetes affects nearly 4 million people in France, according to Health Insurance data. This chronic pathology is characterized by the presence of an excess of sugar in the blood, called hyperglycemia. Type 1 diabetes is due to a lack of insulin secretion by the pancreas, while type 2 is due to the misuse of insulin by the body’s cells.

Treatment is based on a balanced diet, regular physical activity and drug treatments, including insulin. To support affected patients, Roche Diabetes Care – a subsidiary of Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche – has developed a number of digital tools around the production and enhancement of medical data.

“A Data Pathology”

Diabetes is a data pathology“, summarizes Valérie Armani, Innovation Director at Roche Diabetes Care, interviewed by L’Usine Digitale. “You have to count carbs, do calculations to know your insulin level and your blood sugar [taux de sucre dans le sang, ndlr]”, she adds.

First, digital will be used to support the diagnosis of the disease. In this sense, Roche Diabetes Care has developed the “Phil” app dedicated to type 2 patients, whose objective is to help them rebalance their diet through personalized cooking recipes. It also includes a food product scanning tool, whose algorithm was developed by the company Innit, as “Yuka”. Released in November 2021, it now has 60,000 downloads.

To top it off Phil, the company is now working on resources related to physical activity through the following programs. To this end, it seeks partnerships with suppliers of connected objects, such as a scale, step counter, blood pressure monitor, etc.”Who says programs say success indicators say they are objective and therefore elements of success“, observes Valérie Armani.

Make self-monitoring easy with a mobile app

Roche Diabetes Care also wants to facilitate patient self-monitoring of blood sugar. For this, it developed the Accu-chek Sugar View, currently in a pilot phase with 25 pharmacists and around fifty patients in France. It allows people with type 2 diabetes who are in a pre-diabetic state to occasionally test their blood sugar by photographing a strip. Results are analyzed by a dedicated mobile app. “Accu-chek Sugar View provides an introduction to blood sugar measurement“, says the innovation director.

Not all patients are comfortable with mobile apps. Roche is also testing “InsulinStart”: a system based on SMS exchanges with healthcare professionals. This pilot includes around twenty doctors (general practitioners and diabetologists) and around fifty patients. The latter receive an SMS every morning to measure their blood sugar levels. The result is sent by SMS. The healthcare professional then tells you the level of insulin to inject.

remote patient monitoring

Roche also has a remote monitoring platform called the Roche Diabetes Care Platform. Data is collected through blood glucose meters connected to the Gluci-Chek app, a carbohydrate counting tool. So doctors can monitor their patients and adapt their treatments if necessary. Roche Diabetes Care Platform telemonitoring is eligible for the ETAPES program. On this matter, Valérie Armani recalls that the reimbursement of remote medical monitoring will enter into common law until July 1, 2022.”We are therefore in the process of complying with the requirements of the High Authority for Health“, he underlines.

The pharmaceutical group is also signing partnerships, such as the one signed with Biocorp. This French company markets a cap intended to make insulin injectors (pens) “connected”. It automatically collects patient-selected insulin doses during the day in real time. Through the Roche Diabetes Care Platform, healthcare professionals can access this information.

The innovation of the future: the artificial pancreas

We’re still looking at which device could enrich our own ecosystem.“, explains Valérie Armani. When the technology was not developed internally, to save time, Roche seeks partners. It is this strategy that the subsidiary intends to put into practice with the artificial pancreas, the future great innovation in the treatment of diabetes.

Combined with a continuous glucose sensor and insulin pump, it works in a closed loop and automates and personalizes insulin delivery thanks to a self-learning machine learning system. “Of course, we will partner with the companies behind these algorithms“, says Valerie Armani.

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