Connecting with Diabetes Patients

Author: 
Shana Leonard

There’s no way to sugarcoat it: Diabetes device manufacturers have fallen short of meeting patients’ expectations when it comes to design aesthetics and usability. But the tide could be turning as two new high-tech, consumer-friendly diabetes devices hit the market and represent a trend toward giving the people what they want.

Demonstrating an active and informed approach to managing their health, diabetics have emerged as a particularly vocal patient population that knows what it wants from these critical devices and accessories. And it isn’t afraid to speak up, either. Case in point: Amy Tenderich, founder of the popular Web site DiabetesMine, wrote a much-discussed open letter to Steve Jobs several years ago requesting that Apple propel insulin pump design into the modern era of electronics by applying its trendsetting design capabilities to life-critical devices. Likewise, a survey conducted by Cambridge Consultants last year revealed that diabetes patients were unhappy with current drug-delivery designs and their user experience.

Listening to these impassioned pleas to take a cue from consumer electronics, startup company Telcare has introduced what it claims is the world’s first cellular-enabled blood glucose meter. Resembling a slightly older-model smartphone, the Telcare BGM offers patients a high-tech means of taking, transmitting, and tracking their glucose levels to optimize diabetes management. Boasting connectivity, the device transmits glucose readings determined through blood samples to a private online database. Accessible to the patient, doctor, and any other permitted parties, the data can be displayed in handy charts and help identify trends.

“As a Type 2 diabetic myself, I found the Telcare meter a refreshing change, and a significant step toward bringing consumer medical devices closer to the world of modern technology,” Walt Mossberg, a Wall Street Journal technology columnist, wrote in a recent product review. “Despite some drawbacks, including a high price, I recommend [that] the Telcare be considered by diabetics who want a better substitute for paper logs, or would benefit from real-time sharing of their readings.”

Also trying to cater to high-tech sensibilities and safety concerns for diabetics, Medtronic has launched the mySentry remote glucose monitor. Heralding the device as a pioneer in the category of connected-care solutions, the mySentry allows parents to remotely monitor a child’s MiniMed Paradigm Real-Time Revel system. Providing parents with peace of mind, the bedside device was designed in response to several studies that indicate that the majority of severe episodes of hypoglycemia in children with Type 1 diabetes occur at night. It provides data such as real-time glucose trends, levels, and alerts.

While price appears to be an initial factor with these devices, their impact could prove to be significant over time. After all, the International Diabetes Federation estimates that the number of people with diabetes will jump from 366 million in 2011 to 552 million by 2030. So, demands from this informed patient population will likely only get louder. Luckily, well-designed connectivity solutions such as these that enable better management of diabetes and allow patients to take a more-active role in their—and their children’s—health are a step in the right direction.