Health professionals in Asia have become increasingly vocal in recent years about the challenges posed by diabetes, and for good reason.
Asians have a higher genetic risk of developing diabetes than people of European descent, in spite of the latter group’s generally higher incidence of obesity, says the Asian Diabetes Prevention Initiative, an organization backed by the National University of Singapore.
Diabetics face a lifetime of meticulous monitoring: They need to keep close track of their food intake as well as blood sugar levels, which can be regulated in many cases by regular injections of insulin.
It’s a complicated life for patients, but technology can play a positive role in helping them manage their condition. Beyond biotech and medical devices, a number of app-based platforms have emerged to do just that. Diabeto and HealthPlix are just two of the Asia-Pacific startups that are addressing this problem.
Another is Taipei-based Health2Sync, which announced today that it has raised US$6 million in its series B funding round.
Tokyo’s Sompo Holdings, an insurance services provider, led the round. Existing investors such as Alibaba and WI Harper, a China-focused VC firm from the US, also participated.
How it works
The Health2Sync mobile app lets patients to track vitals such as blood glucose levels, blood pressure, and weight, along with factors that influence those readings such as diet, exercise, and medication. It offers analyses, reminders, and educational content that can help them improve the daily management of their condition.
Moreover, patients’ family members and friends of can also be connected through the app, allowing them to provide support.
Diabetics have traditionally been coached in managing their condition through regular visits from care providers. The visiting health worker will look at the patient’s glucose meter or physical logbook, and chat with the patient to understand their behavior and identify opportunities for change.
The artificial intelligence built into Health2Sync means that coaching can happen in real time, allowing diabetes educators to remotely care for a large number of patients simultaneously, Health2Sync co-founder and CEO Ed Deng told Tech in Asia.
“Our AI reduces the coaching workload for diabetes educators as it constantly analyzes patient data, summarizes it for patients, and provides timely reminders and interactive educational content corresponding to the condition the patient is experiencing,” he said.
In addition to the patient-focused app, Health2Sync has developed a web-based patient management system for healthcare professionals. Using this, they can monitor patients remotely and engage in online chats with them, while also analyzing and managing patient data.
On the hardware side, the startup also built a smart cable and dongle that patients can use to download readings from their blood glucose monitoring devices.
With over 196,000 registered users spread across Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, and Malaysia, the app has the numbers to demonstrate its efficacy. After using Health2Sync for three months, the average blood glucose of high-risk users decreased 22 percent, indicating ing a significant reduction in their risk of developing diabetes-related complications.
“It can help patients change their behavior for the better and make blood glucose testing meaningful to them,” explained Deng.
In a random survey of 1,400 users that Health2Sync recently conducted across its four markets, 90 percent reported that the app made them more aware of changes in their blood glucose levels, while 76 percent said they were measuring those levels more consistently after using the app. Eighty-one percent of users said they gained more knowledge on controlling blood glucose levels, with 78 percent reporting better adherence to the guidance they received from care providers and 76 percent reporting better awareness of their diet.
Working with partners
Health2Sync will use the series B funding to set up operations in Japan, to further develop its data capabilities, and to build features related to its partnerships with insurers – including lead investor Sompo.
The startup is targeting Japanese expansion since the country’s diabetic population has skyrocketed in recent years, hitting 10 million – or almost 8 percent of the total populace.
Furthermore, its alliance with Sompo points to Health2Sync’s strategy of teaming up with health insurance providers.
“Traditionally, diabetics have been denied health insurance in many countries in Asia. But diabetics comprise 10 percent of the adult population, and many diabetics actually control their blood glucose quite well,” said Deng. “By coupling their insurance product with Health2Sync, insurers are able to take on more risks. And for diabetics, not only can they buy insurance now, but they can also enjoy rewards and premium discounts for controlling their health well.”
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