For People with Diabetes, New App Provides Nearly Instant Feedback

Independent Health encouraging diabetic members to download Brook, an app that links users to real time experts and personal data

By Jana Eisenberg

A new software application, the Brook Personal Diabetes Assistant, fits perfectly with the age we’re living in—while embracing personal responsibility, it folds in elements of technology and ever-improving artificial intelligence to make people’s lives better.

Brook is a free smart phone application available for both iPhone and Android. It combines easily accessible, interactive digital technology with intelligence from both data-analysis and real people (registered dietitians and certified diabetes educators) to provide personalized feedback and guidance to its users: people living with diabetes.

The Brook app is promoted as simple to use and innovative in its responsiveness.

Among many other features, it stores and displays a user’s diabetes data, like blood glucose readings, medications, food and activity, with the option to download and print out.

Brook can also connect other devices, like fitness trackers, to provide insight into strategies for maintaining healthy and safe glucose levels.

Wonder what yogurt to buy while you’re at the store? Text your question to Brook, and you’re likely to get an answer before you get to the checkout. The app even analyzes your data and translates it into tips and suggestions.

The app is working so well that Western New York health plan Independent Health has partnered with Brook, and is encouraging their diabetic members to use it. Part of the motivation for both patient and health plan is that when diabetes patients are able to sustain healthier levels, they need less medication, saving everyone money.

Of course, Brook does not replace advice, guidance and education that users receive from their doctor, health care team and diabetes management classes; rather it complements that information by helping people better manage their diabetes on a day-to-day basis.

Brook CEO Oren Nissim is both an executive in the company and a daily user of the app to help with his Type 2 diabetes.

“Everyone is trying to be healthier; when you have a chronic condition, it becomes harder to figure out the right choices,” Nissim said. “Brook helps me with solutions between doctor visits.”

As far as who’s using it, and what technological skills and equipment are needed, Nissim said that it’s as easy as texting, which most of us already do. And, while Brook has users well into their 80s, the median user age is around 60.

“Brook has made everything incredibly simple,” he said. “There are many easy ways to get your data into the app. We want to make our users happy. Like most consumers, they want something that’s easy to use and gives good results.”

As a person living with diabetes, Betsy Manning began using Brook over a year ago; her experience echoes Nissim’s hopes for the app. Manning, 54, an Independent Health member who lives in South Buffalo, is now committed to the app and said it has noticeably helped to improve her health, her awareness and feelings of well-being.

“I was in the hospital after a car accident, and I got an email from Independent Health about the app,” recalled Manning. “I thought, what the heck, I’d try it. Before I started using it, of course I tested my blood sugar…but knew that I should be testing it more. Once I started using Brook, it helped me to sit down and see what I eat; I’ve learned what good carbs are and know which to stay away from.”

“Brook checks in with me at least once a week. I can schedule a one-on-one with a real dietitian if I want, or text my question and I get an answer usually within 10 minutes,” she said. “They’re very encouraging and supportive. And when you get good numbers, that makes you want to keep doing what you’re doing.”

Nissim acknowledges that it can be frustrating to try and maintain healthier habits. Brook, he said, can provide “lightbulb” moments that help people realize their goals are achievable.

“Brook provides consistent help when people need it,” said Nissim. “It might be ‘What do I eat for dinner,’ or ‘I’m tired of doing this.’ We deal with all of it, even human behavior, 24/7. Blood sugar a little high? Take a 10- to 15-minute walk and have a drink of water. It will go down.”

Brook even texts users acknowledging data-based patterns, like, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been sleeping well, how is your blood sugar doing?” These can help a person understand that even little things can make an impact.

That impact been great for diabetes patients who are successful Brook users. “Starting to use the app made me realize that I have to take care of myself,” Betsy Manning said. “I don’t want to die from something that can be taken care of.”