Don’t Be An Apphole.
I am asked this question all the time, especially now that entire conferences are being geared towards mobile health, honing in on the fact that more people have mobile phones than access to toilets. (This is true, or at least according to the fact I saw on Time. A phone but no toilet?) “Mobile apps to manage diabetes – isn’t it exciting? What are the ones that you’re using?”
Last month, I spoke at the Kairos Summit in NYC about mobile health and the app-frenzy in the healthcare sphere. I felt kind of like a tool, though, because I don’t use any mobile apps to manage my diabetes. There are a few that I use to track other health habits (like sleep and exercise – see this post for health applications I am using that aren’t specific to diabetes), but as far as ones aimed at my pancreas? None.
Why? Because I haven’t found one yet that’s useful. Applications to log my blood sugars? I tried that … actually, I’ve tried that several times over. Even the savviest mobile logbook still requires me to open the app, enter the blood sugar, and save it to their system. It doesn’t sound like a big time-constraint, but for someone who uses a glucose meter that isn’t synced up with my phone, it’s a big extra step to make every time you test. Personally, I’d rather plug my meter into my computer and suck the results off it that way.
And as far as food management, as it pertains to diabetes, I don’t use a carb counting application or a food diary. The food apps I use are more along the lines of Yelp, letting me know about ambiance or price, not the grams of carbs in the main entrees.
I think I'm a mobile curmudgeon. Most applications that are geared towards diabetes seem useless and cumbersome to me, and I just want them to get off my lawn. (And to turn the music down and to get their hair out of their eyes.) Every diabetes app touts itself as the newest and shiniest way of paving the road towards an A1C of 6%, but I haven’t seen one that’s better than the consistent use of my glucose meter and CGM.
You know what I’d like? I’d love an app that:
- Automagically sucks the results from my meter and CGM and pump and stores them as one, single document that gives me all my numbers at a glance. And it would require nothing more than Bluetooth (or, at the very, very least, one single cord that worked with all three devices. A magical cord. A uni-cord [mega-hat tip to Scott and George for "unicord."])
- Counted carbs for me by way of simply snapping a photo of the food on my plate. (CarboGRAM instead of Instagram?)
- Synced up with my Dexcom and texted a loved one if my blood sugar dips into hypoglycemic range
- Stored a list of my medications and kept track of interactions, keeping me safe from taking drugs that would interact dangerously with one another
- How about one that rewarded me for good health habits, even when my numbers aren’t cooperating? I want big, inflatable arms to come shooting out of my phone every time I admit that I tested my blood sugar, and the arms could give me a big hug. Even if the number is shit, I’d still be given huggy props for testing, and for reacting to that number. Or if big, inflatable arms aren’t an option, I’d settle for a .gif of cats drinking iced coffee. (I did find a video, though. Go, Cuddles!) (And in a further aside, there are apps being developed along these "reward" lines, which I think is awesome. Positive reinforcement is at a minimum in daily diabetes, and all efforts are appreciated.)
I'd just love something that contributes to an ease of diabetes management, not something that adds to this already-daunting to do list. It can be done. There can be a mobile solution to all of this data management.
If you’re creating a health app for a patient population to benefit from, actually talk to them and find out what might be useful and improve their health outcomes. App developers, don’t just make an app for the sake of having an app. Make one that’s useful, that actually fills an unmet need for the patient with diabetes (not just the unmet need of your company needing to have an app for something). For real. Don’t be an apphole.