The UK National Health Service encourages physicians to prescribe mobile health apps

The United Kingdom’s National Health Service, according to this Telegraph article, plans to start recommending that physicians start prescribing certain mobile health apps to their patients.  Examples include electronic reminders to check blood sugar or take a medication.  Though I’m not sure that the examples provided present the strongest use cases possible for mobile health apps, I think they’re certainly on the right track.  An app that increases the probability that someone remembers to take their medications regularly should accomplish improved healthcare outcomes and improved value.

We have to find ways of building mobile applications that patients find engaging, that they are willing to use, and that will empower them to take charge of their health.   Apps that do these things should save the system money and improve healthcare outcomes.  The NHS clearly thinks that some of these apps are ready to start serving those functions.  It will be a nice experiment to see if they’re right.

A lot of attention for the Telcare glucose meter

The new Telcare glucose meter has received a lot of attention in the last few months (including Walt Mossberg in the WSJ and in the blogosphere from DiabetesMine), as well it should.  The most important advance that this meter brings is that patients no longer have to do a separate task to record their glucose value in a logbook or to download their meters.  Currently, the only way for a provider to see a patient’s glucose values is for either a) the patient to copy them down onto paper from the meter, or b) the patient or physician to download the data off the meter.  Both of these steps have proven to be barriers to efficient transmission of information.  The Telcare system removes this barrier because there is no extra step required once the patient checks his or her glucose.  It is all part of the same, usual workflow.  Brilliant.

The drawback is that you have to use Telcare’s hardware.  You can’t use your Contour meter or Freestyle meter, etc.  This limitation will, in my view, slow adoption of this technology.

But, it is an exciting advance nonetheless.

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One other noteworthy fact is that the Telcare system uses Qualcomm’s wireless technology.  Qualcomm has established themselves as leaders in mobile health and this certainly won’t be the last innovation that uses their technology.

170 million wearable, wireless health and fitness devices by 2017

From mobihealthnews, ABI Research predicts that by 2017, there will be 170 million wearable and wireless health and fitness devices in the US.  While I assume they include CGM (continuous glucose monitor) in these numbers, having more people with diabetes wearing devices like the Jawbone Up or the Fitbit is likely to happen.  The real win will occur when the data from these devices gets truly integrated with glucose data and insulin data to help make future management decisions.  If all the data stays in silos, it’s unlikely to be of much benefit.

Glooko: A cable to download glucose data from (most) meters

While I haven’t tested this cable or software from Glooko, they seem to be on the right track.  Largely for insurance reasons, patients use a wide variety of glucometers.  Many patients have one glucometer for home, one for the car, one for work, all different brands.  Being able to download all of the data from different devices into one location is very helpful.  It should make many providers happy that the Glooko app appears to let you display the downloaded data in the format of a traditional paper glucose logbook.  While it currently only supports seven meters, they seem to be working on supporting more.

Why diabetes? Why a blog? Why me?

Why diabetes?

Because diabetes is not just about science and pathophysiology.  Beyond the science, it is about culture, food, behavior and habits, and many other daily events in peoples’ lives.  I am a physician not only because I am captivated by the elegance of human physiology, but also because I am privileged to spend every day learning about my patients, who they are, and what their goals are.  I try to focus as much attention on each patient’s experience with disease as on his or her medical diagnosis and treatment.  This dual focus is essential to practicing diabetes care.

Because taking care of diabetes requires a LOT of work.  I am hopeful that new innovations will ease the burden on both patient and provider.

Why a blog?

Because, someday, diabetes will be “solved” by either an immunological solution or an artificial pancreas.  In the meantime, we have a rapidly growing arsenal of tools and new technologies to help treat patients.  Some will be useful, some will not.  As I have spent countless hours tracking Google News, blogs, and Twitter feeds to keep abreast of the latest, it only seems logical to share, or re-share, what I am able to collect (along with some commentary).

Because I live in San Francisco and everybody blogs.

Why me?

Because my first introduction to the medical field was diabetes.  I was lucky enough to be invited to spend a week as a medical staff assistant at a summer camp for teenagers with diabetes and was immediately inspired.  As an American Studies major at Northwestern, I wrote my thesis on the “Social and Cultural Barriers to Treating Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus in Urban Latinos.”  I’m now a fellow, training in Endocrinology, planning a career in caring for patients with diabetes.

Because I believe that technological innovations will help us make diabetes care more effective and more efficient.  I find technology fun and exciting, but am wary of implementing something new and shiny only because it is new and shiny (or even worse, has poor usability).  Technology must be used to make diabetes care either better, or cheaper, or both.

Thank you for reading.  I hope that this blog will serve as useful to both patients and those in the healthcare field seeking information on the latest advancements in diabetes technology.