How Verily is using digital health technology to help patients with diabetes

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Vivian Lee talks up Verily project that is helping patients with diabetes better manage their conditions

The Alphabet-owned health company Verily is employing a range of digital health technologies to make it easier for diabetes patients to keep their blood sugar under control, according to Vivian Lee, MD, PhD, president of health platforms at Verily.

Dr. Lee, who was a keynote speaker at the Center for Connected Medicine’s Top of Mind 2019 Summit, told the story of “Steve from Georgia,” a type 2 diabetic enrolled in a program run by Verily.

Steve’s blood glucose levels were too high until he enrolled in a virtual clinic program called Onduo, run by Verily and drug company Sanofi, that provided him with a continuous glucose monitor and companion smartphone app. With the app, patients take pictures of the meals they eat and artificial intelligence recognizes the food items.

“We use Google Vision AI, and just the way it sorts your photos and sorts cats and dogs, it recognizes your food. And in fact for a lot of patients I think that’s the funnest thing for them,” Dr. Lee said.

Vivian Lee Verily diabetes patients
Vivian Lee, MD, PhD, president of health platforms at Verily, delivers a keynote speech at the Top of Mind 2019 Summit.

Combining the blood sugar readings with the food journal allows the app over time to recognize patterns in how certain meals cause spikes in blood sugar, Dr. Lee said. Over time, patients can see the effect of food on blood sugar and that education can lead to better diabetes management.

Tech companies moving into health care

Google and Verily aren’t the only technology companies taking steps into the health care space.

Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook have all made moves into the massive health care industry, recognizing the opportunity to bring better patient experience, data management, and technology to consumers.

Since 2012, the top 10 tech companies in the U.S. have participated in 209 health care financing deals and have spent a total of $4.7 billion on 25 health care acquisitions, according to CB Insights.

These moves are causing some concern for executives at traditional health care provider organizations, according to the CCM’s Top of Mind 2019 report on health IT priorities at health systems.

The report, which was based on surveys of dozens of C-suite executives at U.S. health systems, many leaders are worried that their business models and patient relationships could be disrupted by tech companies.

Seventy percent of responding executives said they were “somewhat concerned” about big tech companies, such as Apple, Amazon and Google, disrupting the health care market; 10 percent were “very concerned,” according to the report.

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