As more and more options for monitoring, sharing and analyzing blood glucose levels become available, people with diabetes are using a wider variety of devices than ever before. But with any device or type of device, it’s natural to ask: What is it actually good for? Does it improve diabetes management?
In many situations, such as use of continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) systems in people with type 1 diabetes, the evidence of improved diabetes management is clear. But certain other technologies, such as using “smart” fingerstick meters that share readings with your health-care team, have less evidence behind them.
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So a new study on the use of smart meters by pregnant women sheds important light on what this technology can accomplish. Presented last week at the American Association of Diabetes Educators 2019 meeting in Houston, it looked at 50 pregnant women with type 1 or type 2 diabetes who either used a smart meter or stuck to their standard blood glucose meter. For those who used a smart meter, readings were automatically uploaded and reviewed by diabetes educators every day. When readings fell below 50 mg/dl or went above 200 mg/dl at least twice in a row, participants were contacted by their health-care team, as noted in a Healio article on the study.
Participants were followed through pregnancy until 6 weeks after giving birth. The researchers found that for the women who used a smart meter, more high and low blood glucose readings were reported to health-care providers — not surprising since this reporting was done automatically. In the group of women who used standard meters, an average of 5.6 low blood glucose readings were reported to health-care providers, compared with 12.7 in the smart meter group. The same pattern was seen for two consecutive high blood glucose readings, with the standard group reporting 9.32 events and the smart group reporting 20.5 events, on average.
It’s possible that some of these differences in reporting were due to actual differences in readings, since women in the smart meter group were more likely to use CGM systems — possibly an indication that they had more variable blood glucose readings already. But overall, the researchers noted, the automatic reporting from smart meters allowed health-care providers to follow up on readings that might have otherwise gone unreported.
The researchers also emphasized that more research is needed on use of CGM systems during pregnancy, as they might offer even more of the reporting benefits associated with smart meters in this study.
Want to learn more about managing diabetes during pregnancy? Read “Pregnancy and Type 1 Diabetes,” “Treatment for Gestational Diabetes: Once You’re Diagnosed” and “Gestational Diabetes: More Treatment Approaches.”
A freelance health writer and editor based in Wisconsin, Phillips has a degree in government from Harvard University. He writes on a variety of topics, but is especially interested in the intersection of health and public policy.
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