A few months ago, we reported on a survey that asked parents of children with diabetes if they would be interested in a combined cell phone/blood glucose meter that could send readings to the child’s doctor. Such devices have been around for a few years, and it’s no surprise that most parents were receptive to the idea.
With the growing popularity in recent years of Internet-enabled “smartphones,” however, the possibilities for mobile diabetes management have expanded dramatically. With phones equipped to handle advanced software and no need to limit communication to 160-character text messages, “complete” diabetes management programs — such as those designed for home computers that let users import blood glucose readings through a cable, and to give their health-care team access to this data online — can now be carried in your pocket at all times. This means that instead of offering a means of organization and long-term feedback, programs can be designed to give instant feedback after each blood glucose reading.
But are such programs worth the potential expense, or the trouble of using them throughout the day? At least one study is under way to find out whether they lead to better diabetes control. As described in an Associated Press article, Howard University Hospital’s diabetes clinic in Washington, DC, has enrolled low-income people with diabetes — for whom getting diabetes under control tends to be more difficult — in a trial of mobile diabetes-management software created by NoMoreClipboard.com, an Indiana-based company. Participants are given a reduced monthly rate for the smartphone used in the study in exchange for their active participation. If a blood glucose reading that a participant enters is outside a customized target range, a warning pops up telling the person what to do. All readings are saved and become part of someone’s “personal health record,” which doctors and nurses can access and use to evaluate the success of someone’s diabetes treatment at personal check-ups. The software can also give users reminders, sending them a text message when it’s time for them to take a medicine or check their blood glucose level.
A study of a similar software program by WellDoc Inc., conducted at the University of Maryland medical school with 260 participants, will announce its results this fall. A small pilot study conducted earlier by the software company found that over three months, software users’ average blood glucose level, as measured in regular readings, dropped. Other providers of mobile diabetes management software include Sinovo, maker of the SiDiary for smartphones and pocket-PC. None of these programs make use of a combined blood glucose meter/cell phone as described in the introduction; users must instead enter blood glucose readings manually.
What do you think — are mobile software programs the future of diabetes management? Or is this the wrong approach for Type 2 diabetes, a condition that disproportionately affects older people? Would you sign up for a program that, like the Howard study, offered you a reduced monthly rate on a smartphone in exchange for your participation? If you already use or have used mobile software to manage your diabetes, would you recommend it to others? Leave a comment below!