Health IT, Devices & Diagnostics

IBM Watson Health-Medtronic collaboration would give diabetes patients alerts 3 hours before hypoglycemic attack

The patient-facing early warning tool will be part of Medtronic’s CareLink platform.

Most Recent Insight 2This post has been updated from an earlier version.

As part of a research collaboration kicked off at HIMSS last April, IBM Watson Health and Medtronic are developing an alert for diabetes patients at risk for a hypoglycemic attack hours before it actually happens. IBM made the announcement at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas as part of IBM CEO Ginni Rometty’s keynote, the company’s first at the annual conference.

The plan is to add the early warning system to Medtronic’s CareLink platform.

The collaboration with Medtronic was one of several discussed in Rometty’s keynote. She also shared the floor with Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and Kenichi Yoshida of SoftBank Robotics.

The dominant theme was that IBM is shifting from a software company to a cognitive solutions company. “The future of the Internet of Things is cognitive,” Rometty said.

Glooko has been working with Joslin Diabetes Center on technology that would provide advance warning on hypoglycemic attacks so that patients can take evasive action, particularly taking a glucagon injection. Like most medications, it takes time for glucagon injections to take effect so any advance warning is particularly helpful. Glooko’s approach involves aggregating patient data from wearables and apps for info on meals, exercise and sleep with the help of Validic. Dexcom has also been working on this technology.

Another reason why advance warning for hypoglycemic attacks can be so helpful is that they often occur in the middle of the night.

In an interview with IBM Watson VP Kathleen McGroddy-Goetz prior to Rometty’s talk, McGroddy-Goetz said the updated feature would be available this summer. The move is based on a research project with Medtronic involving 2,000 CareLink users. Of that number, data from 600 patients who suffered hypoglycemic attacks was used to identify patterns and how to spot them.

CareLink taps into an ecosystem of connected devices De-siloing data from its diabetic users and Watson’s tech is learning from that information. “It takes an ecosystem to do this,” McGroddy-Goetz said. “We are leveraging the things each of us is really good at doing as a company.”

The early warning tool is part of a greater push to develop ways to intervene with diabetes patients to avoid the complications that come with the chronic condition such as diabetic neuropathy that can lead to amputations and retinopathy.