University challenge targets NCDs with mHealth and social media

February 10, 2012 in Medical Technology

ARMONK, NY – A global competition sponsored by IBM and Novartis has yielded social media and mobile technology tools that could help tackle non-communicable diseases such as asthma, diabetes, stroke and cancer.

The NCD Challenge, which brought together developers from academia, sought to address the global problem of non-communicable diseases (NCDs). According to the World Health Organization, nearly two-thirds of all deaths occur due to NCDs. Over the coming decade, some 388 million people worldwide will die of one or more chronic illnesses and the cumulative losses in global economic output due to NCDs will total $47 trillion by 2030. Modest investments to prevent and treat NCDs could save tens of millions of lives and bring major economic returns, officials say.

[See also: mHealth moving forward fast, experts say.]

Winners of the NCD Challenge are Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley, and ESADE Business School-Universidad Ramon Llull in Barcelona, Spain. These winning solutions are for two categories: developing world and developed world.

Developing World Solution:

2Vidas – Haas School of Business, University of California, Berkeley. 2Vidas is a pharmacy-based membership program for low- to middle-income pregnant women to address the growing problem of diabetes in Mexico. The project’s aim is to make a lasting health impact on two lives during a finite period in which women have increased motivation to take better care of themselves for the health of their babies.

The program works by providing pregnant women access to monitoring tools at local pharmacies, support through peer-led sessions, and encouragement via positive SMS messaging that rewards self-management and offers health tips. The potential economic impact is the ability to save women 58 percent to 98 percent of out-of-pocket monitoring costs, depending on frequency of use, and the health system an average of $110 per enrolled woman per year through improved diabetes control – lowering the risk profile of the mother’s pregnancy and baby’s propensity for NCDs. 2Vidas membership program could deliver an estimated $10.4 million in systemic cost savings and $475,000 in added value creation over five years.

Developed World Solution:

Dr. Diabetes – ESADE Business School-Universidad Ramon Llull. Dr. Diabetes uses a handheld device with an application and two cloud servers. It is a total solution designed to provide diabetes awareness, monitoring and management to patients with chronic illness, initially for China. It also provides early awareness to the public and streamlines diabetes management for patients. The solution provides medical data via cloud computing to physicians for accurate diagnosis, and to pharmaceutical companies and hospitals for efficient research and development. The solution is designed to be scalable to support other NCDs. It is designed to lower the risk of complications, decrease treatment costs to patients by up to 73 percent, and decrease their hospital visits by 65 percent.

The NCD Challenge runners up are:

  • Smart Strip – Said Business School, University of Oxford. A non-invasive, mobile blood glucometer band that measures blood glucose transdermally
  • Oxford Asthma – Said Business School, University of Oxford. Low-cost solution for large scale monitoring and diagnosis of asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease

Other finalists in the competition include:

  • DiaMapp – Jordan University. Smart phone technology for managing diabetes type 1 in children, empowering patients and their families to care for themselves
  • Move4Health – Karolinska Institutet. Prescription for physical activity by physicians, targeted for Vietnam, supported by mobile technology to measure activity and provide healthcare follow up
  • My Health Portal – ESADE Business School-Universidad Ramon Llul. Secure online portal based on cloud computing technology that bridges the communication gap between patient and doctor
  • TeleHealth – University of Melbourne. An innovative integrated telehealth solution that can globally individualize the care and management of people with diabetes

During the competition, the teams were supported by mentors and subject matter coaching to provide industry expertise to complement each team’s knowledge and research. The winning teams will be provided guidance from the venture capital community for commercializing their solutions.

[See also: Global market for telehealth tech on upswing.]

“The NCD Challenge illustrates the type of ingenuity, motivation and accessibility that will help control the growing epidemic of NCDs in many parts of the world,” said Katherine Holland, general manager, global life sciences, IBM. “Innovation such as this is key to a global strategy to improve care and build a more sustainable healthcare system.”

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