How Can Apps Help Individuals With Diabetes?
October 27, 2016


Anyone living with diabetes knows that it’s no walk in the park. Aside from the constant blood sugar monitoring and dietary restrictions, you need to always be in tune with your body to make sure you aren’t missing any warning signs. You have to be sure you’re not hours away from a potential emergency, and you have to have your chain of caregiver communication in place. It all adds up to daily exhaustion, but emerging technology is looking to change that. Enterprising developers are researching how apps can be used to help individuals with diabetes in ways that aren’t as time-consuming or intrusive — and maybe even help prevent a crisis situation.

Here are just a few ways that apps are looking to help diabetic individuals manage their condition:

Predictive Alerts – and Current Ones
An article at EndocrineWeb highlights an app created by Medtronic in conjunction with IBM’s supercomputer Watson. This app will have the ability to predict diabetic danger hours before it happens through constant glucose monitoring. Pamela Reese, spokesperson for Medtronic, tells EndocrineWeb that the app had success in “predicting low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) up to three hours before it occurred” which is early enough to “head off a potentially dangerous health event due to abnormal blood glucose levels.” It’s a prime example of how current monitoring apps and technology can be applied to the medical field in a vital, meaningful way.

Medtronic also currently has the MiniMed Connect system, which allows for glucose details to be shared from an insulin pump right to a smartphone or iPod touch app. This lets diabetic individuals easily monitor their glucose levels in the moment, plus it has the ability to connect to friends and family in case of emergency. Yet the new app created with Watson is touted to be “a kind of personal medical assistant for those with diabetes” and will even go beyond the capabilities of the MiniMed app system. Although the app’s accuracy will still depend on the user’s input, it’s a huge leap forward from in-the-moment monitoring to potentially predicting when a diabetic emergency could happen.

Caregiver Communication
Diabetic kids know what it’s like to constantly have to check in with well-meaning yet persistent parents and doctors. While it’s important to be in touch with one’s health — and to keep a team of caregivers informed — sometimes kids just want to keep things a little more lighthearted.

A CHOC Children’s blog postfeatures the story of Reece and Olivia Ohmer, a pair of young sisters with Type I diabetes that have developed a “diabetes emoticon app.” This interesting conceptual app better allows children to communicate with their parents and physicians on how they’re feeling, what they’ve eaten, and when they’ve checked their glucose levels. It’s meant to cut down on the amount of time spent by diabetics informing caregivers of their status — so instead of having to trade messages back and forth, the app provides handy emoticons.

“Just because we’re kids doesn’t mean we don’t have good ideas,” Reece Ohmer is quoted as saying, and although they may be kids, their app could have uses for diabetic individuals of all ages. It’s the ability to keep track of reminders and send communications in a way that’s fun, not a nagging chore, that makes this idea stand out.

For people with diabetes, watching their carb intake isn’t about losing weight, it’s about keeping them alive. That’s where the Easycarb app comes in — Healthlineexplains it as “an app for smart devices combined with a dedicated portable Bluetooth scale for food weighing, which together automatically calculate the exact amount of carbohydrates in a given meal.” It even provides insulin dosage recommendations based on the user’s insulin sensitivity, and it tracks all carbohydrates in a database that physicians can later access as a PDF.

Ease of Use
As technology continues to improve, it’s shining a light on how apps can be used to help with healthcare, including that of individuals with diabetes. It’s always important to not substitute the advice of an app for the advice of an in-person physician, but when it comes to things like glucose monitoring or carb calculating, a handy smartphone app might be just the thing to make life as a diabetic a bit easier.

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