Meet Jerry, a Friendly Robot Designed to Improve Child Diabetes Care

The future of medicine holds great hope for the cures and elimination of chronic illnesses. We talk about the future of health with optimism since science and technology have moved us toward better treatments over time.

The future of medicine involves more than treatments, though. It encompasses the future of care, which science and technology are also changing. In Sproutel‘s case, the company is working on improving care with a robot ― a stuffed robot to be specific.

Sproutel is the creator of Jerry the Bear, a companion for children with diabetes. By taking care of Jerry, newly diagnosed patients between the ages of three and seven learn how to mange the disease. In the future, Sproutel is looking to apply the same method to other chronic conditions.

“In the interim before we find cures for these diseases, how do we make it so that the people who have them can learn how to take care of themselves to the best of their abilities and live long and healthy lives?” Sproutel Co-founder Aaron Horowitz said.

Horowitz demoed Jerry on The Future of Personalized Health panel at the Annual Health 2.0 Conference earlier this month. Jerry works by first telling the user two things: how he feels and what his blood glucose level is. Then kids can feed the bear foods like a banana, a slice of toast or a juice box. To keep his levels normal and to make sure he continues to feel well, a child can give Jerry insulin after he eats.

Horowitz said that both the medical community and families are receptive to the idea of teaching children who have diabetes how to manage the disease when they’re first diagnosed at an early age.

“They’re passively receiving four to five injections a day, they’re being woken up in the middle of the night to do finger sticks,” he said. “It’s sort of a missed opportunity to begin to impart these skills onto a child, and to begin to teach them how to practice their own procedures, even though they might not be able to do it themselves at that point in time.”

Sproutel has already tested the bear for usability with 200 children. Soon, Sproutel will do a pilot study with an unnamed hospital to look at medical outcomes.

Jerry is also in for an upgrade. Beta Jerry will have a color touch screen on his chest, and he’ll also send data to a smartphone or computer. This will let parents know how well children are progressing with the simulated diabetes care.

“It will really allow the parents to identify what their children are understanding, what their children aren’t understanding. It then will give the parent tips on how they can help their child get what they don’t get now,” Horowitz said.

Sproutel is currently in the Fall 2012 Betaspring accelerator program. As the company grows  it will look to create Jerry-like robots for children with asthma, obesity and behavioral disorders.

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