App dreaming – by Helen May

helen-may-150x150I have recently returned from a walking holiday in Wales. We stayed in a lovely cottage in the middle of a forest in the middle of Snowdon with no mobile coverage for miles. However, this did not stop me using my mobile phone. On the way, we used Waze to direct us around the M5/M6 traffic jam/car park; my fitness band syncs with my phone to show me how many steps I’ve walked each day; another app uses GPS to show me where I have walked, including how much I have climbed; and, when the heating was not working in our cottage I was able to use the wifi to connect to Skype to contact the housekeeper. I could have also used it to keep up on facebook and emails but I was trying to “get away from it all.” Phone technology has certainly come a long way since the in-car bricks of the 1990s: they are definitely Smart phones.

Although I use my phone to monitor my fitness, I do not use it to monitor my health.

Reading the diabetes forums, it seems as if lots of people use Carbs and Cals to calculate the number of carbohydrates in their meals. I tried it for a while and it was tooooo sssslllllooooowwwww. I had to start the app, wait for it to download the latest database, search for and select each component of my meal (as I cook most dishes from scratch, I was not able to select “one portion of Birdseye’s vegetarian lasagne”,  I had to add mushrooms, spinach, milk, cheese, flour, sheets of lasagne, tomatoes, …) and then wait for it to add up the carbs for each. I know Carbs and Cals has the ability to create meals, but I found this too tedious. And, if it was something I eat regularly I already have a good idea of the carb contents due to previous guestimation.

I have seen a blood glucose monitor which connects to an iPhone like the 2in1 Smart Glucometer or the IBGStar but have never tried them (or been offered one on the NHS). And there are more options to use a “normal” meter which can upload data via Bluetooth to a Smart phone like the Verio meter which I can see has some value.

In my ideal world, my smart phone will integrate everything into one app: it will “know” what I have eaten, what exercise I have done and through a continuous glucose monitor, it will know my blood glucose reading at all times. So I can get a graph which plots my exercise, heart rate, BG and carb intake altogether so I can see any anomalies. I will then be able to drill down to be told what I ate that time and how may units of insulin I took. Or what exercise I was doing at the time and show how that impacted my heart rate and BG.

As we are talking about my “ideal world”, I want the app to know these things without me having to meticulously type anything because I know from my experience with Carbs and Cals that won’t happen.

Diasend does some of this but I have to stop what I am doing to do the upload and I can’t do the upload on my phone … although I do I have an app to review the data, but it is not real time. And it relies on my manual carb counting.

The idea of having one device to manage all of this is very tempting. However, as an engineer, I know this is not without risk. There have been stories of insulin pumps being hacked so someone else can control how much insulin you are given. This is very scary. That said, the most likely risk for me is I will be invited to a long conference call when I am on a train en-route to visit a customer in London and drain the battery on my phone. Then I will “lose contact with my body”.

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