How to use artificial intelligence to treat diabetes and dialysis patients

Millions of patients enter their doctors’ office every day around the world seeking information on how to better manage their diabetes. And while getting information on blood glucose trends can be helpful, patients are largely on their own the moment their appointment is over.

That’s where artificial intelligence (AI) enters the picture. Imagine getting real-time information on blood glucose levels without having to prick your finger. Imagine changing your diet because you can identify which foods are causing your blood to spike. Imagine having the ability to predict your blood sugar levels up to an hour in advance.

Continuous real-time information is the key to futuristic care for diabetes and dialysis patients, and it’s all thanks to artificial intelligence.

Diabetes meets AI

New technology, such as Abbott Freestyle Libre and Dexcom G6 (among various competitors), have slowly been making massive ripples in the way patients self-manage their diabetes. This new technology, known as Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM), is innovative because it’s FDA-approved and helps patients to make decisions on insulin dosage with the tap of a button.

CGM devices send wireless transmissions to your smartphone, delivering real-time information about glucose levels. This allows patients to continuously monitor their levels and take immediate action in the event of a severe spike. Medtronic, a competitor of Abbott Freestyle Libre and Dexcom G6, even offers technology that claims to predict low blood sugar 10 – 60 minutes before it happens.

“Predict” is the keyword here. By continuously monitoring blood sugar levels, Medtronic learns your highs and lows which enables it to predict when these moments may occur, alerting patients to take immediate action (such as taking an insulin shot).

Diabetes coaching in real time

Continuous monitoring is one way to manage diabetes; real-time coaching in the palm of your hand is another. Apps such as BlueStar diabetes acts as a diabetes coach that sits in your pocket. Patients can enter their blood glucose results (that they receive from their CGM) and immediately receive suggestions on what they should do next.

BlueStar solves a significant issue in diabetes care that doctors often fear the most – a patient’s ability to manage their own symptoms when they’re alone. This technology gives patients advice the moment they need it, allowing them to record what they eat, how it affects their blood sugar levels and removing much of the guesswork required by doctors.

Connecting the dots

The hope is that technology will begin to play a much more significant role in diabetes care which in turn can help patients to find a correlation between their behaviors (such as the foods they eat) and how it’s affecting their health.

Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionize the way we manage diabetes. Not only are patients given information in real-time, but they’re also given guidance on what they should do to manage their symptoms.

Freestyle Libre, Dexcom G6, Medtronic and BlueStar are all positive signs that artificial intelligence has the potential to transform diabetes care. As the technology improves and becomes more popular patients will be given more power over their ability to self-manage their condition, improving their quality of life and eliminating the need for guesswork the next time they visit their doctor.

Author: Laszlo Varga

Are you a startup or a specialist? Get the most out of remote IT pros

Are you in the group who can benefit from a remote IT/software department?

As promised, let’s have a closer look at those groups who can get maximum benefit from outsourced IT services of a small specialist team. Is your organization in one of these groups?

Industry specialists under the radar of big IT companies

Your core business is something different – you use IT (probably a lot) but do not want to invest into developing and maintaining it but want to focus on your key activities. You might even feel somewhat uncomfortable when it comes to technical issues – but could value impartial advice without tech jargon or “specialists” without knowing much about your industry.

You need a specialist IT partner if your business needs exceed the opportunities offered by standard, off-the-shelf software and technology products – or you have already burnt your fingers (and wasted some of your cash) on it.

Are you a service company having its core business in healthcare, Digital Health, Elderly/Chronic Care or modern forms of education? Do you manage lots of data, from numbers to videos? Need to convert a legacy function into a cloud application with data migration? Talk to us to see how much help we can provide.

Startups and innovators

Your team has a brilliant idea. You also have a clear picture about the users and their pains, needs and expectations. But currently you have no more resources than 3-4 enthusiastic people and some initial funding to reach your MVP (Minimum Viable Product). You know exactly (or more or less exactly) how it is going to work – but need a group of experienced tech people to make it a reality – including rigorous technical testing or an attractive front-end design.

Are you a startup from the digital health/medtech scene and need a web or mobile application to support your idea and deliver a brand new service to customers? Talk to us to see if fast development can help you to achieve your goals.

(Secret tip: we also know this and that about various grant schemes in Europe, including Horizon2020 or SME Instrument, and a few region-specific schemes. We are not afraid of documenting our work or support you in writing a good proposal. We are not grant application specialists, but know enough to overcome initial difficulties.)

Software developers in regions where IT talent is scarce and expensive

£660 a day, right? Or even over £800+VAT. But if you are not lucky, you do not get them even at this price – they work somewhere else and say “no” to you. You may not be able to afford them, while your project may not able to afford replacing seniors with juniors or inexperienced team members. You also may not be able to risk the challenges arising from cultural or regulatory issues – you need people who had been there and done that before, know those standards and understand the goals without drowning into endless meetings and e-mail threads to explain what, when, and how (and driving your own senior staff crazy).

You may also lack resources to recruit, relocate (maybe entire families) and meet additional cost of attracting the right talent – especially for a single, fixed time project. However, that project is important – and can boost your business if you can afford initial cost of experienced and skilled team members.

Are you a software company delivering solutions for the healthcare or social care sector? Do you develop sophisticated data warehouses for companies in the healthcare, transform or manufacturing sector? Is process management important for you and you have regulatory requirements to observe? Do you have an opportunity which could improve your business significantly if, say, you had 2 more senior .NET programmers or people with real experience in blockchain technologies or VR? Talk to us.

Do you have “issues” with testing, implementation and Quality Assurance during your software project? Can you see the point where automatic testing is worth the effort – which is going to be my next blog post on 4 July.

Author: Eva Lajko

An important IT project and short of resources? Pros and cons of freelancers, agencies and outsourcing

Digital transformation has reached almost every industry sector. Industry 4.0 (such as IT-assisted manufacturing and robotics), digital health, eGOV public services, smart buildings and smart environments, IT-assisted transport and logistics (from driverless underground trains to self-driving cars, automated warehouses and new generation of drones), virtual reality, new forms of gaming and entertainment, to name a few – all these use IT technologies of some kind. You need qualified engineers, specialists and developers to implement these IT technologies to get the maximum benefit from them. Finding the right ones starts becoming an issue – especially if your IT challenge needs a custom solution rather than an off-the-shelf IT product.

This new digital world forces companies and their CEOs to look at newly emerging IT needs even if they do not have a particular IT background. “Outsourcing IT” or “outsourcing development tasks” gained a new meaning in this environment.

Companies actively looking for developers may experience that recruitment, onboarding and related actions may be more time-consuming and risky than expected. Immediate or short-term project opportunities may be missed completely, while planning for longer term can also be difficult.

So, you have a very, very exciting development project or a pressing need to have a new application/module/portal etc. – but you do not have the resources/expertise internally to do it, or your resources become available only a few months later. What can you do? 

Employing
freelancers

Benefits

Upwork and similar sites provide unlimited source of global talent, where any reasonable opportunity may attract hundreds of applications. Some of them are definitely excellent at very, very attractive prices. Employing (good and affordable) freelancers is an awesome option to complete tasks which can be considered as low-risk (such as logo design, preparatory steps for a future development, content translation for an app and many more). You may also look for a freelancer when you need a specialist for a single task –having access to global talent can ensure you find a really experienced guy, maybe the most suitable (check references!) for your project.  

Risks

You may find a gem, but nobody guarantees this person is available for long-term or next time. They may retire, be busy in another project, be sick or may be taking exclusive, full-time employment in the near future. You may also find difficult to manage the performance of a person maybe sitting 2000 miles away from you, including personal problems – OK, if there is no delivery, there is no payment – but the work is not being done either which may ruin your entire project.

And once this person is gone from your radar, you may end up with a product (without documentation?) which is not future-proof. (Yes, there are companies doing well on redeveloping legacy software or doing reverse engineering – but this may be a complicated and costly exercise for the user, especially if the software is crucial for everyday operations).

Co-operate with large software houses in distant regions and countries

They might be, again, brilliant AND cheap. The good ones are utterly professional: always having capacity, tech and language skills, well-designed customer support. Their administration and project management supports smooth workflow and clear communication. You even might have a dedicated account manager and all the goodies a large company may provide – at, depending on location, very attractive rates. Standardized project may work extremely well as well as some repetitive business – this remote team may be the extended part of your organization.

Risks

First of all, your enquiry may be refused – especially if your project sounds unique and special or just SMALL for them. You may also be required to define very, very exactly what you want – and you may only trust real Agile methods if you want to change after the initial agreement on scope. Actual tech people may change during the project due to fluctuation or resource management. Even your Account Manager may change – everything should be very well-documented otherwise you may have to get back to Square 1 in the last phase of development. Cultural differences in communication do matter – the bigger the gap is between your working cultures the higher the likelihood of misunderstandings and misinterpretations is, which may turn your project into a nightmare.

Use temp agencies to “recruit interim staff members

This may work in some industries where fluctuation is high, work is standardized. Having qualified staff can be the most important aspect in the business – which is often mission-critical such as healthcare or transport. However, IT processes and tasks can be difficult to standardize. It may worth a try to get a temporary team member for a particular project – as paying higher fees may still be cheaper than struggling with endless recruitment. Your “temporary” colleague may be happy to work for you as a permanent member of your staff if both of you are satisfied.

Risks

Your interim may come from a different work culture – which can be good or not so good. It is almost sure that rates will be higher than your normal staff – consider this when you plan your budget. Non-standard requirements can be a challenge how the “temp” colleague fits in your team – prepare with detailed and clear job descriptions. Unless you are ready to consider traditional employment if you are happy with the interim, do not expect much loyalty or proactivity either.

Work with a small outsourced team near you

They might have specialist skills and qualifications you want without competing with you in your market. If you want those particular skills only for a particular project, fine – but you may also have them in a long-term partnership as your remote “software/IT department” if it fits your core business and you need more sophisticated IT than off-the-shelf applications with some consultancy. You may find small but professional companies with loyal team members (our programmers spend at least 5 years with us) – you do not have to worry about they keep changing all the time. They are legal entities, accountable for guaranteed SLA, delivery to agreed deadlines etc., without dealing with anyone’s personal problems which may be the case with sole freelancers or interim staff members.

Risks

Most risks can be hidden in details you may consider “minor” in the beginning. “Flexibility” cannot mean “unstructured”. Software development, yes, might be a kind of art, but methodical approach and attention to detail always pays off.  Having a brilliant tech team with terrible admin support might also be alarming – micromanaging ancillary tasks can be expensive and irritating for you as a customer (and I guarantee you no longer will feel like a customer, rather as an overloaded PM), no matter how brilliant the actual code is. It is also a benefit if your “remote team” has at least one member being familiar with the regulatory standards and other, non-technical requirements and standard practices of your environment to have a compliant product at the end of the day. Be also a bit suspicious if you receive a “yes” to virtually anything you suggest or ask – as it is said in my country, it does not make you a good musician if you cannot tell music notes from “fly leftovers” and play whatever you see on the sheet music in front of you.

Tips

Check references first – as part of “due diligence” which may also be done by a consultant working for you. Be cautious, if you are the only customer at the time or if the developers are immediately available – the good ones are usually busy, while professional companies prefer to plan ahead. There are, as usual, some exceptions: you may be lucky to send an enquiry when an important project is just about to finish, you may come from a priority market/industry which can put you into the VIP seat. You might be the so-deadly-important first reference to get a tremendous price (just keep in mind price is only one element you need to evaluate). 

If your potential outsource partner is based not far away, invest in a personal visit. It can tell a lot about their work style and working environment, while you also have the opportunity to chat with the team before hiring them. (If you visit us, you will see a neat, modern and organized environment with technology supporting remote working such as videoconferencing tools, very fast and reliable Internet connection and super secure server/cloud/communication environment).

Teams versus individuals – 2+3 may not be equivalent to 5…

Quality of teamwork is something what really matters but very, very hard to standardize or quantify. Leadership may not be linked to a formal management role, but more to technical expertise, coordination and communication skills. You may have a group of brilliant individuals but if they are not given enough time to formulate a team, it can ruin you project without knowing exactly what went wrong.

If you outsource, choose to “rent” a team, not a loose group of individuals. They already know each other, have worked together for years, have a mature communication and coordination style. This can boost your immediate efficiency, saving valuable weeks and resources in a period when it is most crucial. You know what you want – and a team having an architect, a developer, a tester and a Business Analyst will know howwithout the need to micromanage them, including in-depth technical discussions and guidance or endless clarifications on terminology and know-how. 

Not sure whether you are one of those who can get maximum benefit from nearshore development services from a small specialist team?  I am going to publish another post about this on next Thursday – you may find out that your organization is amongst them.

Author: Eva Lajko

AI is helping people with dementia stay out of the hospital

A network of internet-enabled devices is far better than a single IT device. Combined with artificial intelligence (AI) and an IT system with carefully selected, well integrated elements, a unique network helps people with dementia improve their lives.

In Surrey, UK, more than 6000 people have a formal diagnosis of dementia, although it is estimated that around 16,801 people have the condition. Four hundred of these patients have a better chance of living a quality life in their homes. NHS runs an IT project in the region called Technology Integrated Health Management (TIHM) for dementia and has four goals we totally identify with:

  • to improve the lives of people with dementia;
  • to support people with dementia to stay safe and well in their own homes;
  • to reduce hospital and care home admissions; and
  • to relieve the stress on carers.

The houses of people participating in this project is filled with sensors, wearables, monitors and other devices, which gathered in one internet of things (IoT) network, monitors their health at home.

In this project NHS partnered up with many institutions; one of them is the University of Surrey. Scientists from the university developed technology that can identify and help reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections (UTIs), the most common cause of hospital visits among older people. IT specialists from the university’s Centre for Vision, Speech and Signal Processing (CVSSP) used machine learning algorithms to identify early symptoms of urinary tract infections, based on the signals already found. The goal is to determine the health problems of people living with dementia before they require a hospital visit – thus helping clinicians and carers.

This machine learning system gathers data from the sensors installed in the patient’s home. The algorithms were able to detect a rise in body temperature and nighttime activity in a patient, successfully leading to a diagnosis of urinary tract infection. Data streamed from devices in the patient’s home, including monitoring sensors and devices tracking vital signs, were analyzed by machine learning techniques and health problems were flagged on a digital dashboard to be followed up by the clinical team.

Early results are promising. Scientists are hoping that this trial will be as successful as their first program: that trial showed a significant statistical reduction in neuropsychiatric symptoms in the 400 participants involved in the project, and as a direct result the program was awarded an extra £1 million from NHS England.

What convinced me, that this program is on the right track, was the relaxed faces of relatives and people living with dementia involved in the program. You don’t have to take my word for it, see it for yourself here. You can read more about the program here.

This pilot has a lot in common with in our recent Horizon2020 project, ICT4Life. The integrated platform of ICT4Life was connecting patients and carers, as well as providing an integrated package to set up the home environment with smart monitoring technology to detect early symptoms of changes in the patient’s condition, non-standard behavior or any other warning signs. Early intervention can prevent unnecessary hospitalization or deterioration of the patient’s health, while accumulated data can also assist healthcare professionals to research and analyze them further, in order to improve future treatment.

Technology can be used for monitoring in a non-intrusive and reliable way, also helping family members to focus on the human aspects of care. Connecting this facility with the concept of integrated care, dementia patients may have a safer alternative if they prefer to stay in their home.

Author: Eva Lajko

Data collection in healthcare with IT tools and the changes to come with GDPR

Data collection via IT tools in the healthcare industry isn’t a terribly new concept, but it’s still something that hospitals and clinics have yet to fully take advantage of. With that being said, a new law set to came into effect in May 2018 may change the way industries across the board collect and manage private data.

The IoT revolution in healthcare

The concept of “IoT” (the Internet of Things) has essentially taken every industry by storm. IoT makes reference to the billions upon billions of devices that have been connected to the internet, collecting and distributing data.

With the mass production of cheap processors and the wide availability of wireless internet, practically any device nowadays can be connected to the web. This is why the Internet of Things presents countless possibilities for the healthcare industry.

The IoT can enable hospitals to track and monitor patients the moment they arrive for care, allowing for real-time data to automatically update patient records without the need of hospital staff, such as nurses, to update charts. The IoT also allows hospitals to keep track of expensive equipment more efficiently.

An example of IoT in healthcare is a service offered to diabetics called the Diabetes Digital Coach. It’s an e-learning system designed to aid patients struggling with diabetes to better manage their condition. This technology links to internet-enabled glucose monitors, keeping the user connected to the web at all times and providing real time feedback.

Tools such as the aforementioned make data gathering simplified and improves patient education so they can take decisive action in the moment.

Where does GDPR factor into the equation?

While data collection shows massive promise for revolutionizing healthcare, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) may prove to be a roadblock of sorts for many medical institutions.

The GDPR, which went into effect on May 25th, 2018 tightens Europe’s laws on what companies can and can’t do with people’s data. It gives average citizens more control over how their data is collected and forces companies to provide justification for how they handle private data.

While the GDPR is European legislation its effects span the globe. This is because every organization that collects and monitors the data of European citizens must adhere to the guidelines set forth by this new legislation.

What does this mean for healthcare?

Hospitals and clinics will now be required to provide more “opt-in” options for patients before personal data can be used. That likely means the number of “pre-ticked” boxes on healthcare websites will appear less frequently, and medical institutions will be compelled to use more straightforward language to ensure patients grasp a full meaning of everything they’re reading.

The GDPR also allows for patients to have the right to be forgotten. That means patients can request their personal files be deleted if so desired.  If a company decides not to comply with the GDPR they will be mandated by law to pay a fine of €20 million (USD 24 million) or 4% of their annual turnover, whichever is greater.

What can healthcare do to adapt?

The healthcare industry finds itself in a precarious situation. On the one hand, data collection is easier than ever due to increasingly sophisticated IT tools. On the other hand, the globe-spanning effects of GDPR will greatly regulate how this information is collected and used.

As of this time, the guidelines of the GDPR are still fuzzy, but it’s safe to assume that industries that start making preparations now should have nothing to fear. Those that don’t make the proper preparations, however, will face the consequences come May this year.

Author: Laszlo Varga

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