Smart phone application manages diabetes

Smart phone application uses phone camera imaging and patient data to help monitor diabetes and foot ulcers

An interdisciplinary research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI; Worcester, MA) has received a $1.2 million award from the National Science Foundation to develop a smart phone application ("app") that will help people with advanced diabetes and foot ulcers better manage their disease.

The four-year project will be organized through WPI's Healthcare Delivery Institute (HDI) in collaboration with diabetes and wound care specialists at the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

The proposed app, currently dubbed "sugar," would be installed on a smart phone and integrated wirelessly with a personal glucose meter and scale. The application would track and archive blood sugar levels and weight, and use the phone's camera to capture and analyze images of lesions known as foot ulcers, which are potentially dangerous complications that affect people with advanced, uncontrolled diabetes.

The importance of managing weight and blood sugar to control diabetes is well known, and the app will prompt patients with specific messages based on their weight and blood sugar readings over time.

The app will also track the progress of a patient's foot ulcers, which are often caused by neuropathy and reduced circulation to the extremities. The patient, or someone else in the home, would photograph the ulcers on a regular basis then use embedded tools in the app to monitor the ulcers' status. The app would deliver prompts with objective measures of the progress of their ulcers to help patients decide if staying home and dressing the wounds is sufficient or if a doctor's visit is needed.

"The application will provide relevant, personalized feedback for the patient that encourages them to make good decisions," says Bengisu Tulu, PhD, assistant professor at WPI's School of Business, one of the leaders of the project.

Also working on the project are Emmanuel Agu, PhD, associate professor of computer science at WPI, who will lead the software development for the new application, and Peder Pedersen, PhD, professor of electrical and computer engineering at WPI, who will direct the image-processing component of the application.

The first two years of the project are slated for technology research and development, leading to a prototype that will then be refined. If the development phase proceeds as planned, the second two years of the project will test the new application in a clinical trial at UMass Medical School.

-- By Dave Wilson, Senior Editor, Vision Systems Design

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