Merck & Co. and Healthy Interactions, a company that sells digital tools to health systems, have relaunched a mobile health app designed to help type 2 diabetics track their behavior and access remote coaching.
The app pulls data from devices that track blood glucose, weight and blood pressure and supports text and video chats between patients and healthcare professionals.
Merck and Healthy Interactions introduced an earlier version of the app in 2016 to build on their existing diabetes education program.
The diabetes digital health space is crowded. Over the past few months, Medtronic has introduced a gamified patient engagement program, Roche has integrated its mySugr tool into a telehealth service and health management startup OurPath has raised funds. These initiatives, and many more, attempt to improve health outcomes by providing support and behavioral nudges to help diabetics better manage their conditions.
For pharma companies with diabetes products, the initiatives offer a way to stand out and connect with patients in a cut-throat market fought over by multiple drugs with comparable characteristics.
Merck has long recognized the value of offering diabetics something other than medicines. Healthy Interactions supported Merck's entrance into the diabetes sector and the introduction of its blood sugar medication Januvia.
In 2016, the two companies introduced the first version of the map4health app, then known as Conversation MApp. That app grew out of group education sessions that use a map detailing topics about living with diabetes to spark conversations. The goal was to connect diabetics to educators between face-to-face Conversation Map sessions.
map4health has replaced Conversation MApp. It has a new look but the core features are unchanged from the most recent version of the latter. Users can still integrate the app with Samsung S Health to pull in blood glucose, weight and blood pressure from connected devices. Both versions also enable users to set goals, such as drink eight glasses of water, and track their performance against these objectives.
The app still provides a link between type 2 diabetics and educators or healthcare professionals, too. This feature was central to the thinking behind the development of the original app but is only open to people whose educators or healthcare professionals are registered with Healthy Interactions.
It remains to be seen whether these features and the new look attract users. While on paper digital health initiatives give biopharma companies a way to connect to patients, in practice many struggle to gain traction. According to the Google Play store, the Android versions of Conversation MApp and map4health have been downloaded between 1,000 and 5,000 times and rated six times. To put that in context, the mySugr app Roche acquired has been downloaded more than 1 million times.