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



Diabetes affects nearly 4 million people in France, according to figures from Health Insurance. 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 poor use of insulin by the body’s cells.

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

“A pathology of data”

Diabetes is a data pathology“, sums up Valérie Armani, director of innovation at Roche Diabetes Care, interviewed by L’Usine Digitale. “You have to count carbohydrates, do calculations to know your insulin level and your blood sugar [taux de sucre dans le sang, ndlr]“, she adds.

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

To complete Phil, the company is now working on features around physical activity via programs to follow. As such, it is looking for partnerships with suppliers of smart health connected objects, such as a scale, a step counter, a blood pressure monitoring, etc. “Who says programs says success indicators says objectives and therefore elements of success“, notes Valérie Armani.

Facilitate self-monitoring with a mobile app

Roche Diabetes Care also wants to facilitate patient self-monitoring of blood sugar. To do this, it developed Accu-chek Sugar View, currently being piloted with 25 pharmacists and around fifty patients in France. It allows people with type 2 diabetes and presenting a pre-diabetic state to occasionally Review their blood sugar level by photographing a strip. The results are analyzed by a dedicated mobile application. “Accu-chek Sugar View provides an introduction to blood sugar measurement“, says the innovation director.

Not all patients are comfortable with mobile applications. 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 him the insulin level to inject.

Remote monitoring of patients

Roche also has a remote monitoring platform, called the Roche Diabetes Care Platform. Data is collected through blood glucose meters smart health connected to the Gluci-Chek app, a carbohydrate counting tool. Doctors can thus monitoring their patients and adapt their treatments if necessary. Telemonitoring by Roche Diabetes Care Platform is eligible for the ETAPES program. On this subject, Valérie Armani recalls that reimbursement for medical remote monitoring will enter into common law no later than July 1, 2022. “We are therefore in the process of complying with the requirements of the High Authority for Health“, she underlines.

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

The future innovation: the artificial pancreas

We are still looking at what device could enrich our own ecosystem“, explains Valérie Armani. When the technology has not been developed in-house, to save time, Roche looks for partners. It is this strategy that the subsidiary intends to implement with the artificial pancreas, the future great innovation of diabetes treatment. Combined with a continuous glucose sensor and an insulin pump, it works in a closed loop and automates and personalizes insulin delivery through a self-learning machine learning system.”Obviously, we will make partnerships with the companies behind these algorithms“says Valérie Armani.

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