Technology has come a long way in the last five years — especially wearable devices and what they’re capable of reporting. It’s not just about the “number of daily steps” or monitoring heart rate anymore. And that’s great, because about 9 percent of the world’s population has now been diagnosed as having Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes. We need new ways of diagnosing and managing the condition as it gets worse.
Heart disease and cancer continue to rank as the number one and two threats to our health as we age, but diabetes can lead to heart disease. Technology has always been a big part of understanding how and why diabetes affects us. Anyone growing up with diabetes in the last 30 years knows how to prick their finger with a needle so they can use a little handheld to find out if they have low blood sugar.
But what if we can be more consistent? What if we can show people what their long-term outlook is instead of just showing them what their day will be like?
That’s what the smartwatch revolution is trying to accomplish.
Insulin users have been wearing continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices for a few years now. There’s no longer a need to prick your finger. These devices help those who suffer from diabetes better manage their condition, lowering the risks of serious side effects (like the aforementioned heart disease).
But smartwatches are capable of providing the same information, and much more. Dexcom CTO Jake Leach said, “The smartphone platform really opened up a lot of functionality that is not typical in medical devices.”
He says that these technologies are really great for parents whose children are suffering from diabetes: “The parent has the safety blanket of knowing how things are going. They can set up alerts and alarms that can communicate if there’s an issue that has to be dealt with, so they don’t have to worry as much.”
The devices can also be used for research purposes. Diabetic patients can opt to have the CGM reading continuously uploaded to servers where the information is then used to make even better gizmos.
Leach said, “The folks that utilize that technology have better glucose control than those that don’t and we kind of attributed it to the fact that they’ve got others helping them manage their diabetes…Diabetes is such an evolutionary thing and it develops over time and changes. You have to always be looking to change the way of managing it.”