Macadamian and CHEO Partner to Develop Voice-Enabled App to Help Youth with Diabetes

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Macadamian technology leverages Amazon Alexa and Cloud connectivity to enhance patient experience.

“One of the key challenges in managing diabetes is empowering youth to engage in health behaviours in a supportive way,” says Dr. Stasia Hadjiyannakis, Medical Director of CHEO – OCTC’s Centre for Healthy Active Living. “Establishing and encouraging good diabetes self-management at an early stage wi

A new partnership between Macadamian Technologies and the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO – OCTC) is developing My Diabetes Coach, a unique way to improve the health of youth with type 2 diabetes by creating an intelligent, voice-enabled system — using Amazon’s Alexa — that provides accurate, personalized feedback and suggestions based on actual behaviours.

In youth with type 2 diabetes, blood sugars are affected by nutrition, activity, sleep, stress and prescribed medication, often including insulin injections and day-to-day measurement of blood sugar levels. Achieving blood-sugar targets for youth with type 2 diabetes is critical to preventing diabetes-related health complications, such as kidney failure, blindness, early heart disease and amputation.

The type 2 diabetes health-care team at CHEO – OCTC works with youth and their families to develop a plan of care that includes health behavior goals at each clinic visit, but between those visits there is limited contact to offer encouragement and motivation, to respond to issues that arise, or to make proactive adjustments in their health-care plan. My Diabetes Coach is a unique approach to overcome the barriers of more traditional modes of communication — phone calls and email are now less desirable to youth — by connecting with youth directly using the intelligence of their smartphones or other home systems.

To make My Diabetes Coach a reality, Macadamian is working with CHEO – OCTC pediatric endocrinologist, Dr. Stasia Hadjiyannakis, as well as University of Ottawa Masters of Engineering students.

“One of the key challenges in managing diabetes is empowering youth to engage in health behaviours in a supportive way,” says Dr. Stasia Hadjiyannakis, Medical Director of CHEO – OCTC’s Centre for Healthy Active Living. “Establishing and encouraging good diabetes self-management at an early stage will provide significant benefits to patients over the years by mitigating the risk for diabetes-related health complications.”

In the United States today, 29.1 million people are living with diagnosed or undiagnosed diabetes, and about 208,000 people younger than 20 years are living with diagnosed diabetes, according to a study published in April’s New England Journal of Medicine, entitled, “Incidence Trends of Type 1 and Type 2 Diabetes among Youths, 2002-2012.”

Leveraging Macadamian’s Hive software platform, the team is developing a voice-enabled and connected health solution that includes a custom developed mobile application, Amazon Alexa skill (voice enabled application) and a bluetooth glucometer interface, all of which ties into a patient portal and a database with patient support content. The solution is being designed to complement and enhance the initiatives of the clinician and members of the patient’s circle of care. Voice interaction and gamification are also being integrated to encourage and reward patients, while providing advice and guidance to those that are struggling.

“Through this solution and partnership with CHEO – OCTC, Macadamian further establishes its leadership in developing and integrating voice-enabled solutions, and supporting cloud technologies that improve the experience for those managing chronic illness, like type 2 diabetes,” says Timon LeDain, Macadamian’s Director of Internet of Things.

The Macadamian Hive platform and the My Diabetes Coach solution serves as a concrete demonstration of the benefits of voice assistants in health care. The solution is aimed at improving and strengthening the teamwork between clinician, parent and child in diabetes management, and reducing diabetes-related family conflict, which results in better control of blood sugar levels. As the voice recognition and artificial intelligence technologies improve, these voice interactions will become increasingly more natural, predictive and helpful.

“CHEO – OCTC’s partnership with Macadamian is a result of the hospital’s growing Health Innovation Program, known as #HIP613, and an exciting extension of our Lean culture of improvement,” says Alex Munter, President and CEO of CHEO – OCTC. “We encourage staff to think of innovative ways to improve health care and then connect them with the expertise that can turn great ideas into great health-care improvements and technologies. That’s why we are so excited to partner with Macadamian.”

Watch this video to get a better sense of how My Diabetes Coach will work.

About Macadamian

Macadamian is a full-service user centered software design and development firm. From product ideation to market ready – and everything in between, we provide a complete range of usability, design and engineering services. From healthcare to mid-size enterprises; our solutions are founded in research-informed design first while leveraging the cloud, big data, and Internet of Things to deliver context-aware and adaptive experiences. Macadamian is headquartered in Gatineau, Canada and also has offices in Armenia, and Romania.


The Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario – Ottawa Children’s Treatment Centre (CHEO –OCTC) is the leading provider of specialized pediatric health services in Canada's capital. CHEO’s programs help over 500,000 children and youth each year in Eastern Ontario, Western Quebec, Nunavut and parts of Northern Ontario. As a world-class research centre and teaching hospital, for over 40 years CHEO has changed young lives in our community, while our innovations change young lives around the world. For more than 65 years, OCTC has been providing specialized care for children and youth with disabilities, including cerebral palsy, complex needs associated with congenital conditions, developmental delay, autism spectrum disorders and brain injury. The two previously separate organizations recently joined forces to become one organization, stronger together for kids and families.

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