An app just won’t do it

An app just won’t do it

According to an article posted on the Drug Store News web site; “A new study by IMS Health finds that most apps focused on health and wellness have limited functionality or evidence of value in advancing healthcare provision and outcomes, with fewer than half of them directly related to patient health and treatment, and more than half of them having fewer than 500 downloads.”  Now Diabetic Investor can’t say we’re surprised by this finding although we’re sure it will garner the attention of the many who believe that app’s are the answer to better diabetes management.

Now before everyone thinks that Diabetic Investor does not believe in the use of smartphone apps as a possible valuable tool in diabetes management, think again. The issue isn’t whether or not apps can help a patient, the issue really comes down to whether or not the patient will actually use the app. To Diabetic Investor apps are not unlike all these new glucose monitors that not only deliver a test result but also can calculate insulin dosage or average mean glucose. Features which are nice to have yet rarely used by the majority of patients who like it or not just want a meter to provide a test result and nothing more.

Looked at from another perspective a diabetes smart phone app is really just a mobile version of the software packages that work with today’s glucose meters. When desktops and laptops were king, all the meter companies came out with software that allowed the patient to upload their readings from the meter to their computer. Granted these systems were imperfect as it required far too many steps to get the readings from the meter to the computer, still the software if used as designed could provide some valuable information to the patient which in turn would help them better manage their diabetes. The only problem is less than 10% of all patients actually use this type of software.

We know what’s coming next, the people who believe that advanced technology is the answer to better diabetes management will say that there are a slew of new meters and/or systems that make it easy for a patient to get their readings from the meter to the smartphone. This is true, however just because it’s easier to perform a task does not mean a patient will execute the task. Keep in mind that glucose readings are just one piece of information, if an app is to be add any real value to the patient’s life it would also need to know when medication is taken, the patient’s carb intake, etc. As valuable as it is to have glucose readings they do not by themselves tell the whole story.

The reality is as powerful as the information provided by these apps can be, they do not by themselves gather the information, apps merely receive information. Given the complexities of diabetes management and the dependence on patient interaction with the app, it’s likely that like other advanced diabetes technology only a handful of patients will actually use it. This is what the technology believers fail to grasp, that in the real world the majority of patients who have and regularly use smartphones want to live their lives with their diabetes and not for their diabetes. They want technology that will fits into their daily routine and does not add to their already busy lives.

This is the reason Diabetic Investor sees the future of diabetes management in implantable or semi-implantable systems which gather the information and then transmits this information to a smartphone. One of the biggest complaints even by those who use advanced technology such as a continuous glucose monitoring system is the need to change sensors. Wouldn’t it far easier if all the patient had to do was to swallow a sensor or have one inserted in their body? We already have systems that allow a patient to swallow what is basically a miniature camera so that a doctor can see what’s happening in the patients stomach, why not a glucose sensor that can be swallowed. But why stop at just measuring glucose and design a sensor that can measure insulin intake, or when a patient actually takes their medication. While this may sound like pie in the sky technology it’s not as there are companies already working on these advanced systems.

Now to some who have been long time readers of Diabetic Investor this endorsement of implantable or semi-implantable system will be seen as a change of a previously help position, which it is; so why the change? There are several reasons but most importantly is implantable or semi-implantable technology makes life easier for the patient. This should be the basis for every technology invented, does it make life easier for the patient. Yes we realize that there are still several hurdles to overcome to turn this dream into reality but unlike some of the other systems which are being developed the effort if successful would yield enormous benefit to a wide spectrum of patients and not just a handful of patients.

This is why Diabetic Investor is constantly frustrated with so much of the technology that has been designed or is being designed, it fails to understand the fundamental problem facing the majority of patients in that proper diabetes management is a 24 hour a day 365 day a year job with no days off.  Even the most dedicated patients can become frustrated with all the tasks they must perform each and every day to properly manage their diabetes. Is it not common sense to develop technology that lessons and does not add to their daily burden of diabetes management? Is this not the reason that mobile technology is transforming how we live our lives, as it makes a person’s life easier? Just in case there any doubts think of what life would like without smartphones.

It’s about time that everyone in the diabetes device world and those who believe that technology is the answer to everything start understanding that technology that makes a patient’s easier life is the answer; that to develop technology just because it is way cool won’t and quite frankly hasn’t done anything substantive to help patients better manage their diabetes. Thankfully there are some companies who have seen the future and are diligently working to turn this dream into reality. Let’s hope for the millions of patients and the millions more coming that their efforts are successful.