Diabetes management app to begin pilot at UMass Medical School

By Aditi Pai
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Sugar App ScreensA diabetes management app developed at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) is set to begin a pilot at the University of Massachusetts Medical School (UMMS).

The app, called Sugar, aims to help people with diabetes manage their weight and blood sugar level as well as assess the status of chronic foot ulcers. Patients can use the app, available on Android devices, to integrate data from their glucose meter and weight scale to track their blood sugar and weight. Users can also log exercise and physical activity.

Based on the data the users provide, the app will send patients messages to help them improve their health. For example, the app might tell the patient “You measured your glucose more often yesterday compared to the day before. Well done!” or “It’s been 5 days since you last exercised. Try to get in some exercise today.” 

Sugar also offers patients a wound assessment feature so patients can take pictures of the ulcers, which the app will then analyze. The app looks for color and boundary changes of the wound over time to determine if the wound is stable, healing, or getting worse.

“A key feature of the app is its ability to track the wound area and healing status, then report the information in a format easy for patients and their caregivers to understand,” WPI Professor Peder C. Pedersen, who led development of the wound image analysis system, said in a statement. “For the first time, this system will give patients the ability to play an active role in their wound care.”

This wound analysis feature was developed over a yearlong period at the UMMS wound clinic. Researchers first tested the system on a model foot with simulated wounds that is used in medical education, and later on photos of real foot ulcers taken while patients visited the clinic.

The new pilot aims to enroll 30 diabetic patients who are currently being treated for foot ulcers at the medical center’s wound clinic. Patients will use the app for six weeks, or the amount of time it takes to make three visits to the wound clinic. Their progress in wound care and the affect the app has on their wellness will be compared to patients who do not have the app but received the current standard of care provided by the clinic.

WPI's researchers have created a number of health and medical apps over the years. In 2012 researchers from the school submitted an Android app for FDA clearance that can pick up subtle changes in skin color by scanning blood vessels, thanks to an algorithm developed at the school. In 2012 The US Army awarded WPI a three-year, $1.9 million grant to develop miniaturized wireless sensors that can detect early signs of blood loss on the battlefield and potentially save soldiers’ lives. More recently WPI was awarded a $2 million grant for development of a stress eating app.