If Anyone Can Take Diabetes Tech to the Next Level, It’s Apple

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As a diabetes mom of nearly 20 years, I’m like a walking museum of diabetes technology. Our first meter, the Lifescan, was bulky, expensive, took a “hanging drop of blood” and nearly a full minute to count down. Our first pump, the Minimed 507, was amazing to us at the time. But today? It’s a relic. It clicked around the clock. I remember hearing a father talk about walking his daughter down the aisle at her wedding. He said  he listened to the click of her pump the whole way down, and then, as he put her hand in her husband’s and walked away, he thought, “the clicking reminder is passed now.” Back then, A1c tests were drawn, and we waited days to hear the results. No on-the-spot tweaks based on lab results back then. And logging? We actually used paper log books. Yes, I’m here talking to you from the olden days, but hugely excited about CNBC’s news that Tim Cook was spotted at the Apple campus test-driving a glucose monitor connected to his Apple Watch.

Oh, how far we’ve come. 

“As CNBC reported last month, Apple has a team in Palo Alto working on the “holy grail” for diabetes: Non-invasive and continuous glucose monitoring. The current glucose trackers on the market rely on tiny sensors penetrating the skin. Sources said the company is already conducting feasibility trials in the Bay Area.”

Now I’m thinking back to my daughter’s diabetes in 1997. I’d just scored my first “dream job” and I’d be heading off to ski and do other adventurous things for work! I’d be in remote places where even finding a pay phone was a challenge. In order to travel and be reachable in case there was an issue with my daughter’s diabetes, I had to get phone numbers of hotels and resorts so my husband could leave me messages. Sometimes it would be hours before I’d get those hand-written messages.

Then came the heady rush of uber cool technology: I got a beeper. Then, the sitter, or my spouse, or a friend could page me when they needed me – I mean, how cool was that? I remember feeling so free and modern. Selfish me loves tennis and I used to play in a league. Instead of having to leave the phone number of the tennis club with the school nurse every time I went off to play a match, I could just have her page me (I’d leave the beeper at the front desk with specific instructions NOT to come get me unless the special emergency code we had worked out showed on it.) The school nurse could also could page me glucose readings throughout day if there was concern. I thought, how could things get better?

Of course, you know the answer to that. Cell phones. Faster meters. CGMs. Dexcom’s Share technology. Smarter Pumps. And now even Apple cares about diabetes.

It makes me reflect when I hear newer parents fret about how hard it all is. Don’t get me wrong: diabetes is hard – and we need even more advancements. But as a mom who came from when we practically had to send up smoke signals to get information about our kids while they were at school, sports, or off playing, it’s an amazing new world. And it’s so much easier.

I love that Apple is pondering what we need and I’m hoping they improve life with diabetes the same way they’ve furthered how we buy, store, and listen to music, how we talk on the phone, how we get news alerts, and how we connect in every way.

So as Apple considers our needs and tries out some possible tools, here are my diabetes mom suggestions for the next steps: for things that will feel as super cool and transformative as that pager did way back when.

  • Automated deep breathing instructions with every blood sugar reading update. I picture a soothing voice – not Siri, but maybe … Morgan Freeman? Saying “Before you react to this reading, breath in slowly through your nose. Now, blow out through your mouth like blowing through a straw. Slowly … let’s count to 10 together as you do.” 
  • Camera vision carb counting. Wave your phone over your meal or snack and it instantly tells you the exact carb count.
  • An app that replaces health insurance reps so things happen quickly, without frustration and there is no ‘please hold for two hours’ every single time you call.

I realize we might put a man on Mars first, but I suspect that if anyone can take diabetes technology to the next, next, next level, it’s Apple.

 

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