The app interprets blood sugar readings and acts like an “artificial physician” to make clinical decisions about how much insulin a person should take.
It’s one of those things most of us take for granted. Every day, without realizing it, our bodies make insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar levels and helps keep them from getting too high or too low.
But the body’s insulin requirements change constantly — and that’s where things get tricky for millions of people with Type 2 diabetes who don’t produce enough insulin on their own. It’s hard for them to know from one day to the next how much insulin to take.
“The more insulin-deficient we are, the sicker we are,” explains inventor Eran Bashan of Ann Arbor. “If you can bring your blood sugar levels to the normal range, your risk is no different than someone without diabetes.”
The Israeli-born engineer co-founded Hygieia (the Greek word for health) with his friend, endocrinologist Dr. Israel Hodish, who is also Israeli. The duo first came up with the idea while chatting during a Shabbat dinner in 2007. They spent years developing and perfecting a high-tech insulin management system called d-Nav — an app that interprets blood sugar readings and acts like an “artificial physician” to make clinical decisions about how much insulin a person should take. The system is the first FDA-cleared technology that does this.
“Studies have shown 90 percent of our users have improved their blood sugar levels within 90 days of starting the program,” Dr. Hodish said. “We help people get the right insulin dose when they need it.”
Typically, diabetes patients who take insulin visit their doctor and are given a specific dose until their next appointment. In an ideal world, they’d have their blood work analyzed every week — but that’s not practical or economical. So, the amount of insulin they really need will likely fluctuate before that next visit. What d-Nav does is provide on-the-spot information to make the necessary adjustments from home. That comes in especially handy now during COVID-19 and the need for social distancing and staying home to stay safe.
“If you have diabetes, you’re at a high risk for COVID-19 complications,” Bashan points out.
To use d-Nav, patients can install the app on their phone or get a device that has the app pre-loaded. They use a finger prick or another type of monitor to measure blood sugar, which the program uses to determine the proper insulin dose. The company offers a virtual (telehealth) clinic or a physical clinic in Livonia to take part in an insulin management program, but patients continue to see their regular doctor for overall diabetes management.
The app became available last year through a pilot program with Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It is now a benefit that’s covered by health insurance.
“Our goal is to make insulin therapy simpler and a lot more successful,” Bashan says. “There is so much you can do today with technology.”
Bashan, a husband and father of a teenage daughter, does not have diabetes, but he recalls seeing his great-grandmother using insulin in the 1970s. Today, his mother and grandmother both have diabetes.
“If I live long enough, I’ll have diabetes,” he predicts.
According to the American Diabetes Association, in 2018, 34.2 million Americans, or more than 10 percent of the population had diabetes. 1.5 million new cases are diagnosed every year.
To use the d-Nav program, patients will need a referral from their physician. For more information, visit hygieia.com.