After an initial diagnosis, diabetes sufferers often experience a period of shock when they learn that everything has to change. Turkish mobile operator, Turkcell, and agency R/GA London have created an app to make adjusting to the necessary life changes much easier.
Instead of trying to persuade sufferers to adopt entirely new habits, tools and behaviors to monitor the condition, “healthmetre” deploys Instragram, a tool many people already use and taps into behaviors that people already have.
R/GA designed healthmetre to be a more human way to manage diabetes and help patients develop new, more healthy habits in a way that feels natural and thereby, helping them reach a level of consistency.
Turkcell had been experimenting with ways to help diabetics and approached the agency. Creative director Ilia Uvarov explains: “One of the first things new patients experience is shock when they learn how much their life is going to change. What you eat, what you do, you have to be aware of that on a completely different level. For many patients it causes major stress, people are often in denial and can refuse to acknowledge that all this needs to happen.”
The app tracks a user’s condition via a photographic journal, using Instagram. By synching with a wireless reader that takes blood measurements, healthmetre is also able to map levels to an Instragram image, allowing medical professionals and friends to provide input and support. Alongside this, like everyone else in the world it seems, diabetics take snaps of their meals and post them, and again, these can be liked and helpful suggestions made.
The idea is to make using the app as simple as possible, helping people stay motivated, complying with treatment and keeping the lines of communication with medical staff open.
It is, of course, not the only app that is aimed at helping diabetics but one difference is, rather than setting itself up as a separate community, it utilizes the community people are already in. Uvarov says: “We want (patients) to feel confident and positive with the existing community. We’re focusing on preserving the existing life to the greatest extent possible and helping patients not feel isolated.”
So far, healthmetre has been tested in an 18-month long study with 200 diabetes patients at Istanbul University. The latest version, still in beta phase, is available on Google’s app store and a more limited iteration is currently available via Apple. Updates are planned in the coming months.
Uvarov says he learned much during the development process: “We realized that the app is only a small fragment of people’s lives. Learning how it fits in with their actual patterns, what their interaction with the physical device is, how they connect all the pieces together and connect with other people all led us to approach the challenge from a 360 degree perspective.”
Diabetes is an increasing problem across the world and Turkey has been particularly affected. The most recent statistics (2014) from the International Diabetes Federation show that Turkey has the highest rate of the illness in Europe, with an incidence of 14.7%, much higher than countries like, for example, the U.K. (5.4%) or mid-ranked Germany (7.9%).
The results of the 18-month trial are highly encouraging. Treatment compliance increased by 54%. Blood sugar levels decreased by 27% and complication forecasts decreased by 37%.