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ETSU computing professor creating app to improve diabetes care

Contributed • Aug 23, 2019 at 6:00 PM

Diabetes management is complex.

Even those without the disease find it difficult to help loved ones with diabetes balance their diets, exercise and blood glucose levels.

Concerned about the well-being of his mother living thousands of miles away, Dr. Ferdaus Kawsar, an assistant professor of computing in the College of Business and Technology at East Tennessee State University, decided to create an app where his mother could easily input all her diabetes-management efforts in one place.

Viewing this information would not only be helpful for family and caregivers, Kawsar said, but also physicians, who could monitor the data over time and use it to create customized treatment plans for diabetic patients.

Dr. Saba Aziz, an assistant professor in the Quillen College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine, is assisting Kawsar with the development of the diabetes management system, which was created with funding from ETSU’s Research and Development Committee.

“Optimal diabetes control requires the right balance between medication, diet and exercise, which is achieved by combined efforts from patient and health care provider,” Aziz said.

“This app will bring these components of diabetes management in one place, while reflecting their effect on glucose control. It will enable health care providers to have readily available access to patients’ data and provide additional communication channel between the two.”

Kawsar says an interdisciplinary approach is necessary to achieve the app’s goals.

“We are two faculty members from two different departments who are trying to solve a real-life problem,” he said. “We need the computing people to build the system and we need the expert knowledge from the physicians.

“In the future, data scientists can analyze the data by looking for interesting patterns to further investigate the disease. This is a perfect example of collaboration.”

Patients will record their meals in Diabetes Assist and also enter their glucose level manually or use a Bluetooth-enabled meter to send readings to the app. Another component is an automatic activity detection system, which will interface with pressure sensors embedded in special shoe insoles.

“The application logs all the necessary parameters for diabetes control and what is most unique is the channel connecting the patient and the physician,” Kawsar said.

“There are other apps to record the glucose reading, but we are adding meals and exercise tracking. The special insoles will have a pressure system used to detect exercise level and will connect to the phone over Bluetooth.”

After having the idea for the app, Kawsar assigned it as a project in one of his computing courses. As his students began bringing his idea to life, Kawsar said he realized the potential impact of a new diabetes management system that could reduce health care cost while maintaining quality care.

In addition to the app, Kawsar is developing a dashboard where physicians can securely access the data submitted by diabetic patients to determine if any new medical, diet or exercise interventions are necessary.

“The app will provide useful information to health care providers to help develop individualized diabetes management plan for the patients,” Aziz said. “Additionally, it would provide patients with feedback and encouragement on their diabetes management efforts and improve self-care.”

Kawsar and Aziz will conduct beta testing for the app and hope to initiate a pilot study to investigate the effectiveness of the program and its potential to reduce health care costs.

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