Seems like every week we are hearing about new diabetes mobile apps coming out. But with so many to choose from now, how can we tell what's really going to be helpful for us PWDs? It's doubtful there will ever be an app that perfectly matches everyone's needs, but there are certainly a lot of folks creating choices for us. We took a close look at some of the recent offerings:
Earning rewards for tracking your blood sugar? That's the new twist provided by EndoGoddess, a new diabetes app from the "EndoGoddess" herself, Dr. Jen Dyer, an Ohio-based endocrinologist who's deep into social media. Jen teamed up with eProximiti to build her diabetes app, which allows patients to earn points for every day they log their blood sugars four times. The points can be cashed in for songs on iTunes. Cool!
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I found the interface for tracking your blood sugar very simple... almost too simple, IMHO. There are only four slots to enter your blood sugar: breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. You can enter carbs and insulin as well, but you can only enter your insulin dose in whole numbers. For pumpers, that's a no-go. As far as we could tell, there was no way to backdate entries. In "Reminders," you can set phone alarms to remind you to test your blood sugar, but they are pre-programmed at specific times... which you can't change to your own preference. Unlike other diabetes apps, like GlucoseBuddy or BloodWise, there are no graphs available to review, and the only "history" shown is the number of points you earned in past weeks.
Despite not being visible on the app, there are graphs you can share with your doctor or anyone else you'd like to send them to, a common feature in glucose logging apps these days. The app does also offer an educational component, with basic info on insulin, other diabetes meds, exercise and visiting your endo, plus recipes (although the recipes don't come with carb counts).
This app seems quite useful for newly diagnosed PWDs, type 2 diabetics, or people who tend to test their blood sugar at the same very specific times of day (it's not dynamic enough to handle the variety of life with type 1 diabetes).
The app itself is nicely designed and easy to read and use. We like the fact that the EndoGoddess logo even uses the diabetes "Blue Circle." But as noted, it misses the opportunity to customize and provide enough information for the patient to see problem areas at a single glance. Note that this app just came out two weeks ago, so we're hoping for those additions soon. The prospect of earning points for iTunes songs is a pretty tempting deal, though, especially since the app only costs $0.99! Nice to see an endocrinologist getting into the apps game ;)
Bant is another glucose logging app with a sleeker overall look, but the same simplistic logging set-up. It was designed by the Centre for Global eHealth Innovation in Toronto, Canada, in a team led by a type 1 researcher, and has been tested in a clinical pilot study with teens.
Like the EndoGoddess app, Bant is pre-programmed with four timeframes: breakfast, lunch, dinner and bedtime. However, in Settings, users can add various events, like Snack or Soccer, and select their favorite colors for each meal or category. Using their finger, users drag the appropriate circle to the corresponding time and blood sugar. The time is on the Y axis, and the blood sugar is on the X axis. I found it a bit counter-intuitive to how most graphs works, since the blue column indicating your target range is vertical, rather than horizontal like most logs.
If the whole finger-dragging option is too complicated, then "bant Book" gives you the option to do it the "old-fashioned" way by manually typing in BG readings and scrolling to the right date and time.
The trends option on this app is a breakdown graph that shows the number of times you hit "in range" in that particular category. So if you want to see how many times you're in range after soccer, this feature definitely helps isolate those readings. Trends go back 7, 14, 21 and 90 days, so you can get a pretty good look at how you're doing overall.
One useful feature for us "ePatients" — which Bant is specifically designed for — is the ability to tweet your blood glucose numbers directly from the app. Once authorization is set up, the app automatically feeds in tweets using hashtags like #bgnow, #bg and #diabetes, so we can see what other PWDs are talking about in regards to their blood sugar. Good stuff!
I liked that there is some customization allowed; you can pick the colors of your meal circles and indicate your own minimum and maximum blood sugar levels to widen or narrow the target range. Considering the level of "tight control" you're aiming for depends on who you are, this is beneficial, and something you don't see often in other diabetes apps.
Overall, we like this app! It's free, so taking a test drive for yourself is easy. Bant is colorful and pretty easy to use, minus the whole circle-dragging log entry thing. As noted, we find that a little too cumbersome — I'd be more inclined to manually enter the numbers, and then watch the pretty circles populate.
Produced for UCSF by QuantiaCare, the new app DiabetesIQ is an educational tool on your phone. It primarily provides knowledge quizzes, video presentations and content covering a variety of important topics, like subtracting fiber and hidden carbs when evaluating food. However, the presentations don't offer a ton of detail. Each presentation asks the viewer to download a PDF for more information. The videos are rate-able, share-able and also allow comments, which hopefully will improve the offerings over time.
In addition, this app provides standard logging capabilities, with a couple of graphs showing averages and fluctuations. One problem I encountered, though, was that after entering one blood sugar reading, it automatically takes you back to the main screen, which makes adding multiple entries time-consuming! There's also a section for recording exercise, but it focuses on time only, rather than incorporating type of exercise (unless you make a manual note in the notes section).
DiabetesIQ is free, so it's good app for people who are starting out with diabetes or are looking to learn the basics and do some simple logging. But on the logging side, it's not as dynamic or customizable as some other apps. One plus is that signing up for QuantiaCare, which designed DiabetesIQ, also gives you access to two other apps that we love: DailyCoach with Gary Scheiner, which provides insights into exercise; and EatSmart with Hope Warshaw, which helps focus with nutrition. Both of those apps offer regular tips for incorporating exercise and healthy eating into your daily routine, and are also free.
We just got a head's up from a husband and wife developer team out of Ontario, Canada, about a brand new diabetes app they've created in response to preparing for a diabetic pregnancy: D Sharp is a web-based blood sugar logging application that's accessible from any mobile device you're using, so you can switch from your laptop to your mobile phone to your iPad and back again. It's very focused on identifying BG trends.
We haven't had a chance to check it out yet personally, but based on screenshots, D Sharp looks pretty robust, offering multiple blood sugar graphs and analysis, SMS reminders, and even an estimated A1c feature (though we're unsure how accurate that is, since BG readings are notoriously difficult to use in predicting an A1c).
The downside is that this app costs $6.99 a month, which is pretty steep considering there are plenty of competing apps for free... But we do like the interface from the pictures we've seen. You can sign up for a 14-day free trial to give D Sharp a whirl, and who knows...? Maybe investing that money each month is just the impetus you need to motivate yourself to use the program. Here's a preview:
Similar to glucose meters and insulin pumps themselves, logging apps all tend to do pretty much the same thing, but come with different "bells and whistles." Logging is a challenge for most PWDs, so finding a user interface that fits your personal preferences is really The Big Thing — something you're going to like using enough to really make a difference in your diabetes management. Anybody found their personal Diabetes Killer App yet?