Type 2 Diabetes Challenge


Using technology to support lifelong self-care of Type 2 diabetes by developing an application that educates and coaches newly diagnosed patients.

August 2019

Challenge Sponsor:

Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology

Northern Health



At Swinburne’s Data for Social Good Cloud Innovation Centre we kicked off our inaugural challenge in May 2019. Our first challenge looked at the growing prevalence of Type 2 diabetes, with our challenge sponsor being Northern Health. The challenge also looked to partner with Swinburne’s Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute with the role of providing support and guidance. With the first challenge selected, we needed to establish a multidisciplinary team. Four Cloud Innovation Centre interns were selected, backed by a brains trust of experts across Swinburne Research, independent health consultants and Northern Health. Over a 10-week sprint, we applied Amazon’s digital innovation methodology to explore the customer in depth. We decided to explore the customer perspective of a newly diagnosed Type 2 diabetes patient (within 6 months to 2 years). Across our multidisciplinary team, a concept prototype was developed in August 2019.



Currently, 1.3 million Australians have been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. It’s estimated that there are another 1 million Australians who are undiagnosed living with the disease. In Australia, Type 2 diabetes poses a significant financial cost, incurring around $6 billion annually in healthcare costs with numbers expected to rise.

Locally, Northern Health treats higher than average numbers of patients with Type 2 diabetes, accounting for almost a third of their daily intake. Amongst other challenges, these patients come from many different socioeconomic backgrounds, who are born in more than 185 countries, speak over 106 different languages and follow over 90 different religions/beliefs.

Health professionals usually prescribe Type 2 diabetes patients’ ongoing blood glucose monitoring, a low-carbohydrate diet and exercise as part of their management plan to avoid serious complications such as blindness, kidney failure and amputation. However, proper adherence to the management plan requires significant behavioural modifications that can be tough to implement.


Innovation workshop

Our Working Backwards workshop was held at Northern Health, where all attendees were encouraged to put themselves in the shoes of the customer. Our workshop included Northern Health Type 2 diabetes patients, a diabetes nurse educator and an endocrinologist, to capture the different perspectives of the problem.

Moving forward, we as a group found that a culturally adaptable ‘Virtual Companion’ that holistically supports a patient with Type 2 diabetes, was the idea that resonated most with the group to take forward in the process.


Solutions workshop

With our idea taking shape of a culturally adaptable ‘Virtual Companion’ for Type 2 diabetes patients, we moved into a solutions workshop. The team explored possible technical architecture options with Amazon Web Services solution architects that could support the idea. The technical concept was based on defining what a prototype is and how it would take shape for our ‘Virtual Companion’ which was given the name ‘Chews’.

We then created a wireframe concept which identified how we imagined the patient to interact with ‘Chews’ virtual companion. At Swinburne our challenge team, with support from the brains trust agreed that we needed to hear from additional Northern Health Type 2 diabetes patients. We needed to explore a range of patients with varied levels of health literacy.


Value proposition

Chews is a solution that provides users across mobile and desktop platforms with detailed forecasting to proactively support dietary choices, coupled with logging which can call-out and suggest improvements. Customers are more empowered when they can look back and see a holistic picture and receive small, actionable recommendations.


Concept prototype

We set out to create the most usable life coaching application that helps people to build healthier habits. With contextual awareness, Chews is able to alert the individual with diabetes to the most beneficial course of action for their dietary needs. For example, Chews will keep a record of images taken of food and can keep track of meals that the individual uploads. Trends are identified and dynamically provide recommendations based on past behaviour, feeding back continuous information to the individual with diabetes. Similar to a diabetes educator, Chews educates individuals and encourages the maintenance of a good diet and lifestyle choices by keeping them motivated.



A partnership between Swinburne and Northern Health developed during the challenge to facilitate new learnings and allow rapid, iterative development of a prototype to be made available to the broader community which empowers people with Type 2 diabetes to self-manage their condition. The opportunity for collaboration between medical health professionals, researchers and interns allowed for valuable access to patients and to hear the voice of the customer loudly.


Special thanks


  • Kim Anderson, Digital Innovation Lead, Cloud Innovation Centres at Amazon Web Services
  • Myles Gaerlan, Junior Consultant, The Data Experience
  • Chris Dilger, Junior Consultant, The Data Experience
  • Isaac Low, Junior Consultant, The Data Experience
  • Pip Wheaton, Junior Consultant, The Data Experience
  • Matt Rudd, Director Business Analytics, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Steve Goldberg, Owner, Inet International Inc.
  • Michael Kirk, Director Medical Services, Northern Health
  • John Zelcer, Senior Healthcare Advisor, Deloitte/Board Director, Victorian Clinical Genetics Services Limited
  • Nilmini Wickramasinghe, Digital Health, Deputy Director, Iverson Health Innovation Research Institute, Swinburne University of Technology
  • Suresh Varadarajan, Head of Endocrinology, Northern
  • Penny Schofield, Health Psychology, Swinburne University of Technology/Head Behavioural Science Research, Peter MacCallam Cancer Centre.
  • Peter Brooks, Medical Lead – Research, Northern Health.
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Type 2 diabetes vision statement made available to encourage people to consider new and creative ways to solve problems.