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Diabetes Week part 1: alleviating worry with a wearable
This is part one in our series of #T1Dinsights responses for Diabetes Week running from June 12-18. Click here to see the introduction.
Following on from our #T1Dinsights research, we uncovered that worry about hypoglycaemic events – especially during the night – caused significant concern for both patients and their partners. Some patients were unaware that an event was happening until being shaken awake by their partner and this in itself caused feelings of guilt around being a burden for other family members. We can only assume that this same level of concern and worry also happens to a parent looking after a child with T1D.
We found that ‘balance’ was a word that was used over and over to describe what it was like living with T1D, with the main focus being to balance glucose and insulin to keep blood glucose levels within specific limits. We also heard comments about wanting to feel ‘normal’ and remain inconspicuous about their T1D – not wanting to have to test their blood glucose in public or to have to get their PDA out to check the values from their blood glucose meter.
The idea: Simple readings on your wrist
Current technologies such as activity trackers and smart watches prove that developing a ‘smart band’ that could connect to your continuous blood glucose monitor are well within the realms of possibility. A device like this could display a subtle and simple indication of blood glucose status, noticeable at a glance, without the need to get out your phone or monitoring device and draw attention to yourself.
We wanted to explore a system that allows the user to identify at a glance whether their levels are high or low and take action before they reach an unsafe level. The wrist-band concept (above) glows gently as the user lifts their arm to look at it. The band changes colour to indicate the level of glucose within the blood, the band glows green if everything’s ok but changes to orange and then to red if levels move out of the recommended range.
A simple ‘+’ or ‘-‘ icon could be displayed on the screen to let the user know if the reading is higher or lower than the recommended range. Subtle haptic feedback is provided to alert the user if levels become too high or low enabling them to take action before reaching a critical state.
But it’s not just about the wearer. In addition, a partner or family member could also wear a ‘synced’ band. This would help a family member to feel comforted at a glance or be alerted if their loved one’s blood glucose has gone out of range for some time. Something that could be particularly helpful to parents monitoring a child with T1D or go some way to alleviating concerns about night time hypoglycaemic events as a partner would also be alerted should one occur.
The exact embodiment of this could take many forms and this is just one example of how an idea of this form might look, but we think it could work along the lines of what’s outlined above, focusing on simplicity.
Perhaps it’s not a band but a badge or fob instead? Or perhaps it’s an App on an Apple watch? These are all just theoretical ideas, but they are surely ones which will help to improve monitoring type 1 diabetes.
Does anything exist like this already?
We’ve seen the launch and demise of products in this space, such as the GlucoWatch and Glucoband, and also the 2014 news of a promosing partnership between Novartis and Google to develop ‘smart lens’ technology, bringing the notification straight to your eyeline.
There’s also Diabetes Sentry, a US-based company with an encouraging application of this idea. It’s an FDA-approved device that could address the real concern of night events that our participants shared from our research:
How might something like this improve the life of those with T1D?
A wearable band could go a long way to alleviating the worry and concern of hypoglycaemic attacks for both patients and family members alike, especially when a partner band is worn in addition.
Our research suggested that subtlety could be key to allowing ‘normality’. It could provide a quick status check at a glance and enables patients to easily monitor the difficult balance between glucose levels and insulin. This band won’t be for those T1D-ers who love to crunch numbers, but for those looking to alleviate some of the worry whilst remaining inconspicuous, this might be a helpful solution.
What do you think?
Get in touch with us on Twitter @team_medical
Click here to read ‘Diabetes Week part 2: not all diabetes is the same‘