November 14, 2012
I was diagnosed with Diabetes Type I in December 1997 at the age of 19. I had just graduated from high school, moved to the city, started university and was in the middle of applying for Harvard and MIT scholarships. I thought personal computers and Microsoft Windows 95 uncool, had gone through my range of Ataris and C64s, and was proud owner of my first Apple Macintosh Performa – 56k modem and all. And my first, brick-like cellphone was soon to be exchanged for Nokia’s 7622, one of the first mobile phones with WAP technology: Internet on the go.
However, I do not remember being disappointed when being handed my first blood glucose meter. It measured my blood sugar level – accurately, relatively fast and reliable. That’s what it was supposed to do, and that is what it did. Nothing more, nothing less. No questions asked.
Now 15 years later, my current phone has more RAM than my first Atari had for a hard drive. As for my blood glucose monitor (BGM), it has seen several updates and is now even more accurate, more reliable and somewhat faster than ever before. It looks better, too. And it still measures my blood sugar – nothing more, nothing less. No multi-tasking, no wireless, no interconnectivity, apart from being able to share data via Infrared, a connectivity option I have last seen on an old Toshiba I had to use for work about a decade ago. Oh, there is a USB adaptor, a cable and a CD, which only works on Windows though, with the look and feel of programming in Basic or C++. Great.
While reality increasingly goes digital to meet on my iPhone – friends via social media, work via mobile computing and the Cloud, my home via remote access, Bluetooth and Wifi, and even my phone itself via GPS, smart gestures and SIRI, my diabetes does not. Don’t get me wrong: I do use the most up-to-date App to track my daily glucose values, insulin injections, food intake and other activity – but I still need to enter every bit of data manually. I do use state-of-the-art Continuous Blood Glucose Monitoring (CGM) to continuously track my blood sugar – but even though the sensor transmits its data wirelessly, it needs its own, dedicated receiver to make this data available, with more cables and software to analyse and make use of it. And as for my BGM: It now has USB. Coming out in January next year. And it will be more accurate, more reliable and even faster in the next version. Promise.
Fact is: I don’t care. I simply expect any BGM, be it class A, B or whatever, to be able to do what it is supposed to do: Measure my blood sugar. And I expect any of today’s meters to be at least as reliable today as my old meter was 15 years ago – which never failed me, by the way. And 5 seconds is fast enough, thank you – I don’t drive a Porsche, either.
What I do want, however, is my blood sugar on my iPhone: wireless, fully automated and in realtime. SSL-secured, privacy-protected and data-encrypted. Fully integrated, interconnected and ready to be shared with whomever I want – HCP, girlfriend, peer group and iCloud-backup. And not at the touch of a button, but through in-App alarms that wake me up should my sugar trend go above or below certain pre-programmed thresholds.
Now don’t call me a dreamer, because technically, this is already possible. You know it, I know it – so where is it? Fact is: current regulatory restrictions will soon be replaced by up-to-date standards, today’s still somewhat specialized MedTech Know-How will increasingly become common-place, replicable and affordable, and the increase in diabetes, diabetes awareness and out-of-pocket spending will render new approaches to (continuous) blood glucose monitoring financially viable, economically interesting and most probably very profitable. So who says this market will be left to MedTech industry alone? If MedTech doesn’t engage with IT and telecom, why shouldn’t IT and telecom take over?
So on this World Diabetes Day, MedTech, you better wake up. And you better wake up fast: Because while you still focus on developing the next generation BGM, next generation’s BGMs are already out of date. Because my next BGM will not be a meter at all – it will be my iPhone. Plus an App. Plus a sensor.
Founder, Adventure Diabetes