Wellpepper wins Alexa Diabetes Challenge

The Alexa Diabetes Challenge, a new contest sponsored by Merck, awarded health startup Wellpepper the $125,000 grand prize because of its voice-enabled mobile system, which intends to help diagnose and treat foot ulcers sooner for patients with type 2 diabetes.    

The contest launched in April having a open call for concepts that seek to enhance the experience of individuals with type 2 diabetes with Amazon’s Alexa voice technologies. The challenge obtained 96 submissions, from a range of organizations such as research institutions, software companies, startups, and healthcare providers.

Wellpepper’s interactive diabetes treatment plan incorporates an Alexa-enabled scale into an individual’s mobile device. The scale has a foot scanner which could take photos of a patient’s feet and    may look for possible foot ulcers using a machine learning picture classifier, stated Anne Weiler, co-founder and CEO of Wellpepper.

The plan, known as Sugarpod, offers tailored tasks for patients based on their preferences, and it may send diabetes information, foot scan photos, and doctor’s messages, using texts, emails, and also the Sugarpod mobile program.

Using the voice-activated technologies, patients may capture blood sugar levels, blood pressure, get educational information about diabetes and tips, and trigger the use of the scale and foot scanner. Foot ulcers are the leading cause of amputation and cost the health system $9 billion a year, according to the American Diabetes Association.

“Having the ability to discover them early, and take action at home, will help decrease costs and enhance quality of lifestyle,” said Weiler.

“A individual with diabetes or another chronic condition only sees their doctor four times a year,” stated Kimberly Park, VP of customer strategy and innovation in Merck. “I would love to understand how voice can support the individual’s goals to their own healthcare. It’s a technology which allows for much personalization and ease of discussion. You don’t need to use your thumbs to type or spell. It provides 24/7 support while you’re at home.”

The drugmaker is considering a cooperation with Wellpepper along with the other finalists of the challenge.

“We’ll work together with our small business development organizations to make sure we put the ideal processes in place,” said Park. “Based upon the interest in the business, we will decide what the best path is for any possible collaborations.”

Other finalists in the contest in the contest include DiaBetty from the University of Illinois, My GluCoach by HCL America, PIA by Ejenta, and T2D2 by a Columbia University team.

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