Ann Arbor-based medical device company Hygieia, has partnered with Blue Cross Blue Shield to launch a 12-month demonstration project aimed at helping 1,000 diabetic patients more effectively manage their disease.

The study will test Hygieia’s “d-Nav” system for patients with type 2 diabetes.

The design of the d-nav system is to automatically map out patient’s insulin treatment, charting glucose readings and suggesting what doses are needed to stay on course.

According to Eran Bashan, co-founder of Hygieia, d-Nav is “Like a GPS, you tell the device where you want to go, and it creates a master plan and then adjusts the plan to your current blood-sugar levels.”

Everyday Diabetes recently spoke with Ann Baker, vice president of wellness and care management at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan about the project and about diabetes care in the U.S.

Can you talk about the significance of Hygieia and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan teaming up for a demonstration project to study the d-Nav?

The project is part of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan’s ongoing efforts to identify new and innovative programs that improve members’ care and services. We’re excited to be the first health plan in the United States to participate in a one-year study with Hygieia to evaluate d-Nav among 1,000 type 2 diabetics using insulin.

The Hygieia d-Nav insulin guidance service relies on smart cloud-based technology and a small team of healthcare professionals to provide valuable support to primary care physicians and individuals. For individuals, it provides personalized adjustments to their insulin doses, enhancing and simplifying their care.

Partnerships and collaboration are key to finding a cure for diabetes. It’s crucial for all sectors –private, non-profit organizations and government– to work together to find better treatment and services.

Is there anything in particular about the Michigan demographic that is significant for conducting the study there?

Diabetes is an epidemic that continues to increase at alarming rates. 10.4 percent of Michigan adults have been diagnosed with diabetes and it was the seventh leading cause of death in Michigan in 2013. Five percent of BCBSM’s members have been diagnosed with diabetes and one quarter of these members are on insulin.

In your experience, what is the most difficult aspect of generating more awareness of the seriousness of diabetes with the general public?

The biggest challenge is encouraging individuals to take action to get screenings, and then if diagnosed, to regularly see their doctor for follow-up care. While diabetes does have some symptoms, like increased thirst, frequent urination and tingling in the hands and feet, it can also be symptomless. Of the estimated 29 million Americans with diabetes, 8.1 million are undiagnosed.

As someone who has a front row seat to care management, what are some more effective practices you would like to see implemented by the diabetes treatment industry?

Most long term complications of diabetes can be delayed or prevented if people receive appropriate medical care and actively manage their condition. This can be hard for many people and they often become discouraged and overwhelmed by the daily challenges of diabetes. Addressing the behavioral aspects of diabetes is crucial for long-term success and should take priority.

How about the government? Are there ways it can improve?

Medicare and Medicaid programs face the same challenges in diabetes management as private insurers. If we can help find a solution to help individuals optimally manage their diabetes, it can not only improve their quality of life and prevent future complications but also save costs. Inadequate glucose control leads to poor health—including significant short- and long-term complications and higher prescription and health care costs.

Is it realistic to expect a cure to come out of private industry or should we look to non-profit and public research institutions?

Partnerships and collaboration are key to finding a cure for diabetes. It’s crucial for all sectors –private, non-profit organizations and government– to work together to find better treatment and services.

As diabetes number continue to rise worldwide—they have quadrupled since 1980—it’s easy to focus on the negatives. But what are some things that give you hope about the future of diabetes?

As technology continues to improve, we’re optimistic that we are going to keep improving management and services for diabetes. There is an opportunity for new technology to play a significant role —and that’s why we’re eager to analyze the results of this study in 2017.