Alexa, manage my diabetes

Voice-activated AI app runs on smart speaker

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A new artificial intelligence application for monitoring Type 2 diabetes runs on a device already familiar to tens of millions of Americans: a smart speaker, commonly used to play music and check the weather.

Stanford Medicine researchers developed the voice-activated app, which tells patients the correct insulin dose without requiring them to contact their doctor’s office or wait for an appointment.

“People simply don’t have that much access to care,” said Ashwin Nayak, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine. “We want to empower patients to do it themselves.”

paper about the app was published Dec. 1, 2023, in JAMA Network Open. Nayak shares lead authorship with Sharif Vakili, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine. The senior author is Kevin Schulman, MD, professor of medicine and co-director of the Clinical Excellence Research Center at Stanford Medicine.

The study followed 32 individuals with Type 2 diabetes who were taking insulin and struggling to achieve healthy blood-glucose levels. Half of them received a speaker preloaded with the voice-based AI software. Each participant’s insulin protocol — including starting insulin dose, goal for fasting blood glucose, and insulin-dose instructions — was included in the software on their device.

Though the trial sample size was small, the impact was dramatic. Over the eight-week study period, 81% of patients in the group who used the AI-enabled device achieved glycemic control of their diabetes compared with 25% of patients who received traditional care. Patients using the device had their insulin dose adjusted more frequently and needed far fewer doctor’s appointments to get their diabetes under control.

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