Diabetes and iPhone: Another App Article?

Yeah, I know. For those of you who are tech-savvy and who read more than a few diabetes Web sites or blogs, and especially those of you who may have an iPhone or iPod touch, you’re probably thinking, “Oh no, not another list of those few applications out there that require too much manual data entry.” Don’t worry. It is not my intention to review the few applications out there — “apps” for short, by the way (for the uninitiated) — that are already in existence.


Nope, I’m musing on something else.

See, a few weeks ago I made the jump from a really rudimentary cell phone (which my wife continually made fun of) to a new iPhone 3GS. I’m already a Mac user both at home and work, and while I’m not a complete macolyte, you’d find it nearly impossible to get me back into the PC world. Now that I’m equipped with a cell phone (or smartphone, or whatever you want to call it) that’s made by the company that makes the products I already spend a majority of my day on… well, it’s pretty sweet. Kind of like coming home again (in that nerdy, geeky way).

How I wish Apple would start manufacturing insulin pumps! They could team up with Google and all of our problems would be solved, right?

Anyway, after days spent in awe of all of the out-of-the-box iPhone features, I ventured into the world of iPhone applications. Games. News aggregators. Games. Sports score aggregators. These apps, they’re third-party software add-ons, which you’ve no doubt heard about in Apple’s ever-present marketing. (“There’s an app for that.”).

Well, it took me awhile to get around to diabetes apps (because while I’m somewhat tech-savvy, I don’t read more than a few diabetes Web sites or blogs). However, two days ago I decided to search the app store on iTunes for diabetes stuff, and I discovered… not that much. As I said, most of the apps are basically hyped-up blood glucose logs, or food logs, or carb-counting helpers. And I’m sorry, but I’m past the manual entry of my blood glucose readings — my pump already stores those numbers. I’m also not interested in an app for looking up and/or counting the carbs in the foods I eat, simply because, for me (as for a lot of you who’ve lived with diabetes for awhile, no doubt), I’m more than adept in figuring out carb counts. I do that using an app called myBrain.

I did download (and paid $0.99 for) a diabetes news aggregator called Diabetes Health News Reader, but so far I’ve not been terribly impressed (I mean, Diabetes Self-Management isn’t on there. What’s up with that?).

In looking at what other bloggers and diabetes news sites have had to say about the iPhone apps for people with diabetes, one of the few things that has intrigued me is an app in the works (or already out there; it isn’t clear to me) for people who use the OneTouch Ultra with Bluetooth capability. I don’t have the OneTouch, but I love that the app doesn’t require manual input of blood glucose readings. According to this piece, it “lets users upload glucose readings from their connected blood glucose monitors to their iPhone… then lets users send their readings and a message about how they’re feeling to caregivers like their parents, children or physician.”

That’s pretty cool. And that’s on the right track. What I envisioned when I went to the app store were some novel applications for people with diabetes. Things beyond blood glucose and carbs.

For instance…

I’m not sure how this app would work, exactly, because I’ve not thoroughly thought it all the way through, but here is an example of an application I would like to see:

iHaveDiabetes: This iPhone application helps you avoid hypoglycemic situations, but it also helps save you were you to have a hypoglycemic episode. How? Say, for instance, you sense you’re going low and you don’t have a way to check your blood glucose (you’re somewhere without your meter? oh my!), or, you have your meter and you’ve checked and your blood glucose is going low. Start up iHaveDiabetes. You will have already set up a contacts list in iHaveDiabetes (two or three contacts, most likely, each with e-mail and phone numbers), as well as any number of predetermined, looped recordings that you could enter or you could choose from a menu.

After a given amount of time (based on your determined time from your previous experience with low blood glucose, with hypoglycemia), iHaveDiabetes will remind you to check your blood glucose again (yes, my insulin pump meter does this, but it just beeps). You may have set up iHaveDiabetes to actually ask you how you feel: “Your last reading was low and it’s been fifteen minutes. Are you feeling OK?”

At this point, if you’re feeling okay, you can turnoff iHaveDiabetes and go about your business.

But what if all’s not well? What if you don’t respond to the voice prompt after X number of seconds? Then iHaveDiabetes will automatically send messages to your list of contacts, voice and text, and continue to do so every five minutes until iHaveDiabetes is switched back to all clear.

And, with iPhone’s GPS abilities, it also informs them of where you are, what types of sugars you need and how to administer them, as well as a list of numbers to call (obviously emergency numbers).

While this is happening, iHaveDiabetes is also serving as a medical alert device. Bypassing any audio settings and blasting at full volume a message to anyone around (because you may already be passed out) that you have Type 1 diabetes and you need medical attention. Looped. Over and over. It may annoy people, but hey, they’re already a bit weirded out by what’s going on with you because they can’t figure out what’s going on with you. You can’t tell them, but your iPhone does.

Granted, for something like this to work, it would entail the ability for the application to continue running in the background, something that isn’t currently available for most apps. But that’s only a small issue. Right? Sure.

Learn more about the health and medical experts who who provide you with the cutting-edge resources, tools, news, and more on Diabetes Self-Management.
About Our Experts >>

  • Mikel

    For diabetes news I use a dedicated RSS reader on my iPod touch. Some of them can keep you synced with popular web based RSS readers like Google Reader or Newsgator. That’s handy when you are searching for and adding new blogs and news sites.

    My current choice is Pro RSS, but it was a tight race with a couple of other apps that looked better, but didn’t have the exact set of features I wanted.

    I have been using an app to track my glucose and carbs. Heck, that was my excuse for buying and iPod Touch. I’m new to the challenges of being a Type II diabetic. While the current apps might not be the latest in tech or innovation, I believe they are a good learning tool. Us beginners need something to focus our attention and track results. I’m sure in a few years I’ll be as blase about counting carbs and judging food choices, but in the mean time I’ve got to write it all down. The mobile apps are appealing for me, and easier to manipulate, than a paper log book.

  • Dan Kalinowski

    An app that would help with bolus insulin dosing would be great:

    1) Initially enter your daily insulin:carbohydrate ratios, and those for special circumstances (sick, exercising, etc…). Then your lowering factor.

    2) Everafter, when you’re about to eat, enter the amount of carbs you’re about to consume and your current blood glucose reading.

    3) The app would automatically pull the right ratio by time of day or day of week (whatever you programmed), or use the special circumstance you selected, and suggest the correct bolus with additional insulin to lower high blood sugars if needed.

    Essentially, take what modern pumps do, and give it to people using syringes and pens!

    It’s just math (and liability) – somebody do it!

  • jose

    I know exactly what you mean. It’s such a pain in the butt to manually input all the results (on anything, a mac, iphone, etc.) specially when you see it right there in your meter in digital form.

    I tried a few of the iphone apps and it was jut too cumbersome to have to fiddle with the phone everytime I checked. You have to input the glucose values, time of tests, notes and it gets even worse when you’re trying to imput what you had for dinner, when, the amount of carbs and god knows what else. Not only that, you have to do this for every single time you check your glucose and every single time you eat! Life’s too short I say.

    It was suggested by one of these app developers to first write everything down on paper and then transfer everything to the phone.

    So why do I have the app for then?

  • Kathy Mack

    I love some apps better than others. I love not having to carry paper or a notepad around as I am constantly forgetting I had it in the first place.
    Since I use carb counting on a regular basis, I think that is important to me. Also I would want a basal and bolus calculator for people on MDI. I mean people who pump have that built in but those on MDI could use such a feature as well.

  • Cheryl

    Your musing on this intrigues me. My daughter, age 20, has had Diabetes 1 since she was 11. Her AICs are now in the 11-12 range; she says this is because she forgets to test. Since she is away at college, there’s little I can do to help her, but she suggested that if I could email her four times a day to remind her, that would help, as she constantly checks her email. (She does have a pump but she says she ignores the beeps.)

    Do you know of any email program that would send automatic reminders to her? She doesn’t have an

  • Sherwin

    I think the iHavediabeties is super cool and my son 10, who is on the pump would love it for he’s been diabetic for 7 years January.

  • Chris

    the ihavediabetes app idea would be such a valuable safety. I have hypoglycemic unawareness. There is one thing I have found to be consistant, when blood glucose starts to trend down, I try to call someone, not to notify them that I am having symptoms of hypoglycemia but just because. If this was an available app I would recommend it to all of my Type 1 patients. Yes, I am also an endocrine nurse that works with pediatric patients. Our parents and patients would love this. Hope a programmer can develop this. Pumpers and syringe/flex pens users alike can have another way to stay safe with this scary chronic disease.

  • Jeff

    I have a patent on that already.

  • Howard

    Tried to find the Ihavediabetes app on my iPhone and I couldn’t find it please tell me where it is in the app store.