Plug into technology to monitor diabetes
If you’ve been diagnosed with diabetes, you know how important it is to actively manage your disease by eating a healthy diet, exercising, taking medication, reducing your risk of complications, and monitoring your condition. . And that’s exactly why researchers at the University of Utah Health are working to increase access to tools to help people better manage their disease.
But first, what is diabetes?
Diabetes is a disease characterized by excessively high blood sugar. Glucose comes from the foods you eat and is your body’s main source of energy. Insulin is a hormone that helps glucose get into your cells to give them energy. With type 1 diabetes, your body does not produce insulin due to an autoimmune response. With type 2 diabetes, your body does not make or use insulin well.
Self-monitoring tools available
Glucose monitoring devices
- Blood glucose meters are small devices that measure and display current glucose levels using a small amount of blood from the fingertip or sometimes from the palm of the hand or forearm. Some devices may be linked to a mobile application. There are talking glucometers for those who would benefit from this feature.
- Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) regularly checks your blood sugar, alerts you when your blood sugar is high or low, and gives you insight into blood sugar trends. CGMs work through a sensor on your skin that transmits readings to a recording device.
Insulin Delivery Devices
- A smart insulin pen is an affordable, easy-to-use, reusable pen with an intuitive smartphone app that can help people with diabetes better manage insulin delivery. This smart system calculates and tracks doses and provides useful reminders, alerts and reports.
- Insulin pumps are devices that use a small catheter to continuously infuse insulin into your body, mimicking the human pancreas.
- Connected CGM insulin pumps and “closed loop” systems use a CGM-insulin pump combination. Your insulin pump will be able to integrate your glucose data from the CGM sensor and suggest changes in insulin dosing or adjust the appropriate amount of background or basal insulin on its own.
Smartphones support various aspects of patient-clinician care and interactions, high-quality care, and diabetes self-management. Available apps can help track insulin levels, look up carbohydrates in food, track physical activity, analyze blood sugar patterns, and share a secure data collection system with healthcare professionals.
Social media apps
- Advantages: Online diabetes communities can be found in a variety of social media applications. Research by Michelle L. Litchman, PhD, an assistant professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing and a diabetes expert, indicates that online diabetes communities, such as Facebook groups or blogs, can help improve health outcomes of patients with diabetes.
- Potential risks: The accuracy and credibility of medical information obtained from social media platforms is a major concern. Some people may have difficulty interpreting medical or scientific results. Other drawbacks are threats to an individual’s privacy and distracting advertisements.
Disparities in technological access
Unfortunately, there are many barriers to using these technologies, including racial and ethnic disparities, cost, and vendor knowledge. Researchers are working hard to reduce these barriers and increase the use of these useful tools.
Litchman and other U of U Health researchers study the intersection of diabetes, digital health, and health disparities. The University of Utah is at the forefront of this exciting research through investments from the Driving Out Diabetes Initiative.