ATandT Launches Mobile Diabetes-Management Pilot With Health Insurer HCSC

Employees at AT&T and health insurance provider HCSC are testing a WellDoc Diabetes Management application to gain greater control over their blood glucose levels.

AT&T and health insurer HCSC have launched a pilot project internally that allows diabetic patients at both companies to monitor their blood sugar levels using WellDoc's DiabetesManager application.

DiabetesManager is a diabetes-management application that allows patients and caregivers to monitor care using mobile devices.

A select number of diabetic employees at HCSC as well as the benefits department at AT&T will receive mobile phones to try the application.

HCSC is the fourth-largest health insurance company in the United States and operates Blue Cross plans in Illinois, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas. WellDoc is a developer of medication-adherence applications.

Last fall, AT&T and WellDoc announced a partnership to offer mobile applications to manage chronic diseases, and now the two companies have begun pilot projects using DiabetesManager.

Close to 26 million adults and children in the United States, or 8.3 percent of the population, have diabetes, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

As part of a six-month trial, announced on June 30, employees at AT&T and HCSC will record their blood sugar levels, intake of carbohydrates and medication routine using their mobile phones. They'll then receive real-time text messages if their readings are above or below normal, AT&T reports.

Doctors, nurses and case workers also receive the information and can weigh in with advice on how to manage their blood glucose levels. AT&T provides training to nurses on how to use DiabetesManager to coach patients, Eleanor Chye, executive director, Mobility Healthcare and Pharma with AT&T Business Solutions, told eWEEK.

AT&T and HCSC will review how well DiabetesManager helps patients manage the condition.

While the pilot projects are ongoing, AT&T will seek out commercial customers to run DiabetesManager. "Those implementations don't have to wait for completion of pilots," Chye said.

The telecom giant will host the data on its secure cloud portal. "We know AT&T can scale this solution to millions of people through its network and solutions, which is why we chose to work with them," Kristin Conley, vice president and enterprise process leader for HCSC, said in a statement.

AT&T has performed extensive testing on its security procedures and applications to make sure that the secure DiabetesManager platform conforms with HIPAA regulations.

The DiabetesManager pilot is a project of AT&T's new health care IT business ForHealth, which launched on Nov. 4, 2010.

DiabetesManager currently works only on RIM BlackBerry and Java platforms, though AT&T plans to expand compatibility soon with Apple iOS and Android.

The application runs on data-enabled mobile devices using a mobile Web browser, however.

"What we're aiming for is to get this application to work on the majority of phone types," Chye said. "Right now it only works on a couple of operating systems, but we're expanding that very rapidly."

In various trials lasting three months and one year that WellDoc has conducted, patients have seen a drop in blood glucose levels, Chye noted.

"As a diabetic, every three to six months or so, you're asked to go to a laboratory to take a blood sample that tests your average blood sugars," Chye explained. "People who have uncontrolled diabetes have blood sugars above 7.5 A1C."

A1C is a measure of average blood sugar. Diabetics need to bring high A1Cs down from 10 and 11 down to the more acceptable level of 7.5 A1C, she said.

"There really is a real need out there in which diabetics are finding a way to manage the disease so the disease doesn't control them," Chye said.