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Watson Health, ADA Launch Contest for Creation of New Diabetes Management Apps

In a first-of-its-kind partnership, the American Diabetes Association and IBM Watson Health will be providing app developers with access to diabetes data to facilitate the creation of technology that will help patients better manage and monitor the disease.

Kyu Rhee | Photo courtesy of IBM

Kyu Rhee | Photo courtesy of IBM

The app contest, announced on June 12, will challenge developers to use cognitive computing to create applications that help people with diabetes, as well as their family members, caretakers, and physicians, said Kyu Rhee, Watson’s chief health officer.

“We’re able to help translate big data into a big insight to a key stakeholder in the health delivery system for diabetes care and prevention,” he said, pointing out that these applications can be used by healthcare providers, entrepreneurs, or researchers.

“But fundamentally,” he added, “this is about helping these patients, the people with diabetes.”

Of the estimated 165,000 health applications currently on the market, about 1,000 relate to the treatment or prevention of diabetes, and according to a release from Watson, that quantity hasn’t always translated into quality. Through this contest, leaders from both Watson and the ADA hope that will change.

Diabetes affects millions of people worldwide, and in developed countries is the number one cause of many other health complications, including blindness, amputation and kidney failure. One in three people either have the disease, will get the disease or are at risk of getting the disease, according to Jane Chiang, executive vice president of medical innovation for the ADA.

As of 2012, about 9.3 percent of the U.S. population, or 29.1 million people, had diabetes, according to the ADA’s website. That same year, an additional 86 million additional American ages 20 or older had prediabetes.

The ADA reports that there are approximately 1.4 million diabetes diagnoses in the country each year. Its frequency among the U.S. population makes it a common, and often personal, disease for many families, Chiang said.

Jane Chiang | Photo courtesy of LinkedIn

Jane Chiang | Photo courtesy of LinkedIn

“That’s a huge percentage of the population, so we need to do something urgently,” she said. “Whenever I think about diabetes or anyone thinks about diabetes, there’s always a personal connection.”

The data made available to developers through this contest will be both from Watson’s artificial intelligence database and from the ADA’s 66 years of clinical and scientific data. However, Rhee said, a lot of the data is already public or otherwise available; people just don’t realize it or see the insights that the data can provide.

“Eighty percent of data is often invisible in health and healthcare,” Rhee said. “People don’t realize sometimes the data that they have has often got insights in it, and a lot of the insights are invisible.”

Rhee said he hopes this contest will bring light to that invisible data and encourage developers to use it as a “natural resource.”

The collaboration between the ADA and Watson is a newly established relationship, but one that is built on decades of health management experience from both businesses. The organizations share many of the same goals and hope that together, they will find innovative approaches to handling diabetes.

“The goal of this is that we will be able to deliver quality care across the board, especially to people who are in underserved communities,” Chiang said.

Rhee added that Watson views the partnership with the ADA as a “long-term relationship” and that this contest will be just the first step.

Contest submissions will be accepted throughout the summer, and finalists will be chosen in the fall. More information about the contest can be found online.

Felicia Gans

Felicia Gans

    Felicia Gans is an editorial intern at MedTech Boston. She will be a senior this fall at Boston University, where she is studying journalism, political science, and computer science. When she's not working, Felicia loves drinking coffee, jamming out to Broadway music, and reading the news.

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