To the 347 million people worldwide living with diabetes, managing the disease may not seem like a big data problem. But people with this chronic condition need to constantly monitor their glucose levels with precise insulin readings. In the United States alone, one million people draw blood for testing four to five times a day, producing over 1.8 billion records every year.
When San Francisco State University students Daniel Sanchez and Gary Longoria heard about the SAP University App Rumble competition, they saw an opportunity to tackle the challenge in a big way and bring relief to millions using SAP technology. Their prototype mobile app, called Advanced Diabetes Management, won first place in the contest, as announced at SAP’s SAPPHIRE NOW customer event in Orlando, Florida.
First-hand experience inspires solution with SAP HANA
Diabetes is one of the most challenging health problems in the 21st Century. According to the World Health Organization, it will be the 7th leading cause of death by 2030. The disease hits close to home for Longoria, who has lived with Type 1 diabetes for most of his life.
“Our professor told us about the SAP contest and suggested we do something in health care. For me, diabetes is a very personal issue because I know what it’s like to keep track of insulin levels and manage your glucose with the right doses of insulin as you have each meal,” explains Longoria.
The Advanced Diabetes Management app was chosen from almost 50 entries from 400 undergraduate and graduate students in universities across the United States. Students had to submit ideas for mobile apps that incorporated the SAP Mobile Platform and SAP HANA.
Using the principles of design thinking, each team was tasked to understand the problem, research the topic, develop a prototype, and test the result. Sanchez and Longoria were one of three finalist teams that worked with SAP developers to create prototypes considered for the final round of the competition.
Diabetes is a chronic condition that occurs when the body cannot produce enough insulin or use it effectively. Insulin is a hormone that allows glucose to enter the body’s cells, where it is converted into the energy needed for muscles and tissues to function. Someone with diabetes cannot absorb glucose properly, leading to life-threatening health complications. The Advanced Diabetes Management app is designed to help people better understand which foods cause high blood sugar levels, the exact amount of the increase, and how much insulin to take.
SAP HANA and Amazon AWS: How the app works
The user enters blood sugar readings, food eaten, and insulin taken. Then SAP HANA, running on the Amazon AWS cloud platform, analyzes the data in real time to display a graph with glucose level trends. The app will also recommend changes to insulin levels that have been verified with a patient’s endocrinologist.
“Over time, the patient and physician can see what happens to glucose levels when a particular food is eaten and how much insulin is needed to smooth out the spikes. It’s easier to track personal settings with a lot less guesswork,” says Sanchez.
The ability of SAP HANA to process billions of records in real time could make all the difference to healthier decision-making. Indeed, Sanchez and Longoria envision the app as part of an integrated health-care management system where the data collected on the device is viewable by a physician. Physicians can set warning flags for certain risk factors, such as continuously high blood sugar levels over a one-week period, which when triggered, notify the physician that a particular patient needs attention.
“In the past, patients and physicians used annual visits to monitor progress and determine if changes were needed. It would be impossible to analyze huge amounts of manually-entered data, so trends were much harder to identify,” says Longoria.
Mobile app and SAP HANA: Clear advantages over current tools
Longoria adds that most current glucose analysis tools are PC-based. The mobile app allows patients to obtain and share readings with their caregivers in real time. Having a database of patient information is equally valuable. “With SAP HANA, physicians can use everyone’s data anonymously for further insights. When someone hasn’t eaten a particular food before, they could find out how much of a blood sugar spike others have experienced.”
Sanchez and Longoria now have the opportunity to continue their engagement with SAP to build out and produce their application. They see the Advanced Diabetes Management app as a natural evolution in personalized health care through advanced technology. “Patient data gathering that took years can be analyzed in real time using SAP’s mobile and in-memory computing technology for a more personalized and healthier patient experience,” says Sanchez.