When presented with a patient with diabetes, physicians now have a rather dizzying array of choices in terms of medical management.
And given the number of Americans affected by this chronic disease, the number of pharmaceuticals available is certain to keep growing. But one thing every physician knows (in the back of his or her mind) is that the next wonder drug to hit the market doesn’t stand a chance if our patients keep stopping at McDonald’s or Coldstone Creamery on their way to the pharmacy to fill their prescription.
Diabetes, in many ways, is a disease driven by the “nurture” rather than the “nature” and for that reason education is critical. And while many education efforts have produced modest results at best, a recent partnership between QuantiaMD and The University of California San Francisco (UCSF) is adding a new dimension to these efforts by going mobile.
Together, they produced an app aimed at utilizing mobile technology and social media to teach people about diabetes. The diabetes app, which is free to download, challenges individuals to test their knowledge of diabetes and to compete with one another as they learn about the complexities of the disease. The app is called DiabetesIQ.
“Developed as a free download by the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Diabetes Teaching Center and QuantiaMD, a company headquartered in Waltham, Massachusetts, the new app is intended to help improve human health by turning the task of managing diabetes into an interactive game experience and bringing it to users of the Droid, iPad, iPhone and iPod Touch.”
We have talked in the past about the gamification of healthcare – using mobile technology to make self-management of chronic disease an interactive and perhaps even fun experience. Rather than imposing unpleasant, obtrusive rules on patients (i.e. never eat salt), we could potentially engage them via a platform they already use, often obsessively, and promote healthy behaviors through positive incentives.
While there are numerous diabetes apps already available which do everything from monitoring blood pressure to managing glucose levels, (click here and here to see our reviews) this one has a unique approach.
“The new game follows a quiz-show format where players answer multiple-choice questions about diabetes and then see how their answers compare to the other users in real time. Users are asked specific questions, ranging from, ‘How does regular daily exercise affect insulin?’ to ‘What happens when you combine dancing with alcohol?’ “
According to the article, the app is intended to explore how the lifestyle and diet decisions play out in terms of blood sugar. Its end goal is to connect the theory of managing diabetes to everyday reality.
” ‘Education is a fundamental part of therapy,’ said Martha Nolte Kennedy, the Medical Director of the UCSF Diabetes Teaching Center. ‘Almost anything you do can change your blood sugar and your response to insulin.’ “
Below is an example of what playing the game entails. For instance, if you are actively exercising and want to prevent low blood sugar, playing the game would inform you what is best to eat.
“Would that be:
A banana or fruit juice?
Peanut butter or cheese?
A chocolate bar?
All of the above?
[Hint: don’t answer ‘All of the above’] “
We’re not saying this app is the answer to everything. It could turn out to be no fun at all. That verdict will be rendered by users – patients with diabetes who will either download and discard or download, play it, tweet about it, share it via Facebook, and so on. So, in the end, what we’re looking for is something akin to Angry Birds – Diabetes edition.