When I was diagnosed with Juvenile Diabetes nearly five years ago, countless advances had already been made in the realm of diabetes management. Only a decade ago, blood glucose meters were large (about the size of a graphing calculator), slow, and somewhat unreliable. Now, however, meters are incredibly compact, fast, and astonishingly accurate. Insulin delivery systems have followed a similar trajectory of evolution and advancement beginning with syringes and vials which have recently fallen by the wayside in favor of more convenient pens and pumps. The progress is amazing and has made measurable differences in the lives of diabetics. Now, methods of keeping blood glucose logs are following suit. When I was first diagnosed, I would have to write all of my numbers and the time of day in a notebook to bring to my doctor so that she could adjust my insulin dosages accordingly. Now, however, there is a smartphone application, Glucose Buddy, which allows me to input this data into my iPhone (which I always carry around anyway) and transfer that information to my doctor electronically. This process cuts down on waiting time between doctor visits and is particularly valuable since I am a student in New Orleans, but my doctor works in Jackson, MS.
The application is very user-friendly and provides both patients and doctors with useful tools that a pen and notebook simply cannot offer. As soon as I use my meter to check my blood glucose level, I go to my Glucose Buddy app, make a note (before breakfast, after lunch, after exercise, for example), and punch in whatever number my meter displays. Glucose Buddy automatically detects the time of day, but it is possible to change that in order to retroactively add a meter reading. With this information, the app then adds the number and note to an electronic logbook, which is essentially a digitized copy of a paper notebook. The really interesting feature of this app, however, is that the program then converts the conventional logbook display into a graphical representation. The graph displays, with three different colored lines, the high, low, and average blood glucose readings for every day on which data was entered. This graph allows a patient and a doctor to quickly analyze readings in a visual manner, saving time and energy. Furthermore, the app has a “quick sync” feature which allows patients to send data to their doctors as the patient collects it, allowing for immediate insulin dosage corrections. This app can have great implications for people who either have trouble keeping up with a logbook or who do not live near their specialists. Especially in rural Mississippi, it is not uncommon for patients to have to drive upwards of two hours to visit a specialist. This means that time in between visits can be so lengthy that it prohibits the best possible medical care. Glucose Buddy essentially eliminates the physical distance between doctors and patients, allowing for timely and responsive healthcare.
While Glucose Buddy has proved very helpful in my personal attempts to manage my diabetes, I represent minority group of diabetic patients. By no means do all diabetics have access to either the internet or a smartphone on which do download the application, nevermind both assets at once. This tool could potentially revolutionize the way in which rural diabetic populations communicate with their doctors and receive medical care. Glucose Buddy makes it possible for patients who live great distances from their specialists to have a higher level of care, but people in these rural populations are less likely to have access to both smartphones and the internet. Furthermore, the application is only good if a patient actually uses it regularly. If a patient forgets to input data or fails to sync the information to his or her physician, the application cannot function at its full potential. Given the number of mobile phone subscriptions across the globe, however, it could be possible to create a Glucose Buddy type system for text messages. This would serve a greater number of patients by circumventing both the issue of internet access and the lack of availability of smartphones.