I know a lot of you diabetics out there are not into logging your numbers. It's a pain. And how much does it really help your glucose management, anyway? Well, there's a guy up in Portland who thinks that logging is not only pretty essential, but it ought to be a community affair, involving not only your health care providers, but also family members, friends, school staff, etc., as desired.
His name is Adam Greene, and he's the son of Michael Greene, the former Chairman of the American Diabetes Association and the co-founder of the ADA's Legal Advocacy Team. Adam's father was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when Adam was just two years old.
"My dad's had diabetes for almost 30 years now, and our family members have always jumped in to help... About two and a half years ago, I was working on Wall St., and my dad got really sick. He threw out a disc in his back, and his doctor put him on steroids, which wreaked havoc with his blood sugar levels. My dad and his doctor got really frustrated that they didn't have any kind of historical trend line showing what was going on with his diabetes... That's what got this whole thing started," Adam says.
So Adam moved back home to Portland, OR, and began work on SweetSpot.dm, a new kind of online logging tool that would take a "small-community centric approach to managing diabetes." The idea was that patients could easily download their BG data from a variety of different sources — currently 18 different glucose meters and 5 existing support programs including CareLink — and then create "private groups" of people who can access the information and give encouragement and input.
The SweetSpot tool has been in "quiet beta" for many months, until its relatively quiet launch last month. Now, you can access a free one-month's trial, or sign directly up for the full services at $9.95/month. This price gets you the following:
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- automatic download (you just need a cable) from all those meter models, soon to include a variety of CGM and new pump models, too -- or you can choose manual data entry
- the capability to directly feed data from a patient's account to the doctor or medical professional regardless of what electronic medical record system they use
- the ability to invite as many team members as you wish to view and participate in your diabetes care (this opens up the options for groups, such as athletic teams or friends, to keep track of each other's progress and motivate each other)
- a number of reporting and reminder functions that can be sent to your cell phone (SMS messages via twitter)
- "top-notch customer support" via Internet and telephone, so you're never left alone getting frustrated with the program
(if you do decide to quit your paid subscription, you can retain access to your data online, and continue manual data entry, or you can ask the company to remove your profile altogether)
But it's about a lot more than just keeping records, Adam says:
"Just looking at numbers and being able to make graphs is not the finish. Diabetes management and diabetes wellness are bigger than that. The numbers are important, of course, especially using CGMs, but I don't think that's where it should stop."
So like me, you've probably got a few key questions:
1) Remind me: why would I want anyone besides my doctor to have access my online D-data?
"Of course, it's highly applicable for parents of Type 1 children. Also, we have a bunch of people in their mid-20s who've had diabetes for years. They call themselves 'born again diabetics' — because they're out of college now, and they're starting to get involved in serious relationships, and their partner or spouse doesn't know anything about diabetes. This is a way to teach them and help them get involved... It's also very significant for older folks needing help on a daily basis with their diabetes management from a family member or caregiver."
"But I've also chatted with the SugarStats guys; I want to set something up that if someone wanted to switch over to their service, they could port the data over easily. I really do think this information belongs to the people, rather than the companies." (bravo, Adam!)
3) So how is it that you're going to expand beyond data logging to "diabetes wellness for the family"?
"I'm interested in what the academics call 'psycho-social management,' or group management of diabetes. There are some things in the works now such as, for example: all the information on the site could have geographical markers attached, so users could find people in their area with similar profiles — maybe you also live in Portland and like to run."
"Also we're working on 'motivational interviewing' — something that used to be called 'behavior modification,' but I hate that term, because it sounds so manipulative. We want to focus on rewards. So maybe people with a similar glycemic index could form a group and set a goal together. We're developing a way to bring in rewards... We're negotiating some partnerships with leading companies that will change the whole mode of the site, but I can't report anything concrete on that for another 4-6 weeks."
Oh Adam, isn't it always exciting promises and then a lot of waiting for new diabetes tools?! In any case, sounds like SweetSpot may well be on its way to a set of services worth many people's investment of 10 bucks a month.