Joseph Rihel, after struggling to
manage his diabetes for more than a decade, learned to control
the disease using a new tool: personalized coaching and
monitoring via his mobile phone.
Rihel entered his glucose reading into the phone several
times a day for a year to help test WellDoc Inc.’s
DiabetesManager application. When the blood-sugar level was too
low or high, the 69-year-old retiree received a return message
with specific advice on adjusting his diet or medicine.
DiabetesManager is the only software medical device cleared
by U.S. regulators for real-time Type 2 diabetes medication and
treatment coaching in adults, said Chris Bergstrom, Baltimore-
based WellDoc’s chief strategy and commercial officer. As many
as 300,000 diabetics served by health-care manager Alere Inc. (ALR)
will have access to the service through a partnership with ATT
Inc. (T) announced Aug. 8. Such a tool may help blunt effects of the
disease, which afflicts 25.8 million people in the U.S.
“The object is not to let diabetes control you, but to
control diabetes,” said Rihel, of Pasadena, Maryland, who was
in a trial of the app four years ago.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates
one in three U.S. adults could come down with diabetes by 2050.
Diabetes is caused by the body’s inability to use or produce the
hormone insulin, which converts blood sugar into energy.
Alere’s shares rose less than 1 percent to $18.78 at 10:04
a.m. New York time.
Improper management of a diabetic’s insulin is prevalent
and has dire consequences including blindness and amputation,
said Pamela Allweiss, a medical officer in the CDC’s division of
diabetes translation. Apps like DiabetesManager could help,
“It’s a wonderful way to reach people you might not have
reached before,” Allweiss said. “It’s major technology.”
DiabetesManager is one of a “handful” of medical apps
cleared by the Food and Drug Administration, Erica Jefferson, a
spokeswoman for the agency, said in an e-mail. Approved apps
include a smartphone-based ultrasound and an imaging app that
lets health-care workers view such images as X-rays, she said.
Closely held WellDoc won approval for its app in 2010 and
reached an agreement later that year to provide the service to
ATT’s workers starting in 2011. Chicago-based insurer Health
Care Service Corp. last year paired with ATT to provide
DiabetesManager for its employees.
Alere, based in Waltham, Massachusetts, and ATT declined
to comment on the financial details of their agreement. Eleanor
Chye, executive director of mobile health-care at Dallas-based
ATT, said her company invested significantly in the project.
The system provides patients with real-time medical
coaching through a medical software system equipped with
WellDoc-designed, clinical standard-based automated feedback,
Bergstrom said. With the Alere partnership, it will also send
data back to case managers at the company who can call or send
messages to patients for additional coaching, he said.
“There is a correlation between control and reducing
complications,” said Matt Petersen, managing director of
medical information for the American Diabetes Association.
“There is every reason for people to be using these new tools.
With the existing tools, people are not achieving their goals.”
WellDoc’s Bergstrom declined to say how much the company
charges for the DiabetesManager app and how many people it wants
to cover. The service will only be available through health-care
management providers and companies, so employers usually would
pay for it, he said.
“It’s really ready for wider distribution,” Bergstrom
said. “We are talking to most of the disease management
companies and a couple of large employers.”
Rihel, the diabetic retiree, said DiabetesManager taught
him how to maintain a healthy blood-sugar level.
“By the end of the trial I knew how to control my
diabetes,” he said.
To contact the reporter on this story:
Jeanna Smialek in New York at
To contact the editor responsible for this story:
Reg Gale at