Digital pens improve treatment of acute diabetes at Bethesda Hospital, Stuttgart

18 November 2009

Mobile technology is helping patients with acute diabetes manage their illness more effectively so that long-term complications associated with the illness can be treated earlier.

A new telemedicine solution called DiabCareOnline from Germany’s Ontaris combines a blood glucose meter and patient diary with the Anoto digital pen and a mobile phone to enable faster communication of patient data. The new system is already being rolled out to diabetes patients at Bethesda Hospital in Stuttgart, Germany. The system is being highlighted at medical trade fair Medica in Dusseldorf this week.

From the patient’s point of view, the monitoring process remains virtually the same as before: they measure their blood sugar with the meter and fill in their patient diaries. But instead of a normal pen they use the Anoto digital pen, which automatically captures their handwritten notes and converts them into digital format.

scematic of the Anoto digital penDigital pen and paper forms

The digital pen (see above) looks like a ballpoint pen. A tiny infrared camera at its tip tracks its movements relative to a grey dot pattern printed on the pages of the patient diary, recording and storing what is being written.

Both the glucose meter (Accu Chek Aviva from Roche Diagnostics) and the Anoto digital pen are Bluetooth-enabled. This enables results and diary entries to be transmitted daily via a mobile phone to the patient’s electronic health record. The readings are then automatically compared with the patient’s specific blood sugar targets. If this analysis reveals critical discrepancies, the consultant in charge of the patient’s treatment can intervene more rapidly than previously possible.

This fast response can make a significant difference to the patient’s well-being as acute health issues can be addressed much more quickly. With much of the data analysis being handled remotely, diabetics also do not have to attend as many appointments as before — benefitting both patients and healthcare providers.

Academic studies and experience in the field have shown digital pen and paper to be very user friendly as patients still use pen and paper, just like before. This makes the new solution suitable for diabetics of virtually all ages.


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