Viewing my diabetes data is a topic I've focused quite a bit on over the past year, since I've been using the Dexcom G4 continuous glucose monitor (CGM) connected to the cloud with some great do-it-yourself data-viewing technology.
Our diabetes data-viewing options keep improving drastically, and these days I'm finding more clarity than ever before in what's being displayed.
Pardon the pun, because that happens to be the name of the tool I'm about to review: Dexcom CLARITY, the newest web-based, cloud-connected data platform at our disposal. Sure, there are other data analysis options out there including Glooko, Diasend, and even the coming-soon open source Blip app being developed by nonprofit Tidepool.
But in my opinion, this is the best there is at the moment for me as far as access, usability and design. Here's why that is.
What Is Dexcom Clarity?
It's an online data program that can be accessed via app, tied mostly to the exciting next-gen Dexcom G5 mobile system, which was recently FDA approved and is being released in the coming week or so. The G5 will allow CGM'ers to share their data directly with smartphones without needing a separate receiver as is traditionally the case. Sure, the G5 is only iOS compatible at this point, but we're told Android is coming in early 2016.
But what we have to commend Dexcom on is that they've stepped up their data-sharing game even before the G5 launch, allowing this new Dexcom CLARITY to be downloaded for free and used with their existing G4 model. And as we're told by Dexcom execs, there's no plan to start charging for this down the road.
As noted, the app is for iOS only right now, so if you don't have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you can still use CLARITY by easily logging in online. You simply sign in with your Dexcom account info (whether as a user of SHARE or Studio, their previous software), and from there you just plug in the USB cable between your computer and Dexcom receiver in order to upload the data. Even without the app, you can choose to view the data on your computer or pull it up on your smartphone -- for viewing only, without the full functionality of the app.
This whole system replaces Dexcom Studio, which wasn't accessible online but a software program you had to download onto your computer to use. It also replaces Dexcom Portrait, Dexcom's original starting point for web-based CGM but with a limited design.
Right now, Dexcom tells us CLARITY only includes CGM data. But in the future, the company plans to integrate data from other devices. We have to assume it will be those the company has reached agreements with on data-sharing (like the OmniPod, and even activity trackers). That's exciting.
CLARITY really is a whole bunch better than any other data logging program out there, IMHO. It has a clean interface that allows clear viewing of BG data by day, week, two-week period or the past 30 days. I also really like that it generates an A1C estimate based on 14 days or more worth of data. And you can easily toggle between charts, graphs and data logs for whatever view you prefer.
One of the best features for me has been the pattern recognition, that not only spots trends and presents them in log or chart/graph format, but also summarizes them and then suggests options for addressing those issues. For me right now, the big pattern is Nighttime Highs -- especially in the early morning hours between 3am-7am.
See that clear alert the program has identified a trend in my BG results? So easy to use and helpful. Love it.
Dexcom CLARITY spotted this and then suggested I consider three actions: adjusting my overnight basal rates, checking my carb and correction factors in the evenings, and "consider reviewing the impact of high-fat, high-protein dinner meals." Wow! That's actually some real-life advice!
As it happens, during my first visit with my new endo recently, we agreed this Nighttime High pattern was our first order of business to act on. And those three considerations offered by CLARITY were exactly spot-on with what my doc and I decided should be done. Very nice!
And I really like how you can compare data in pretty much every way possible, from dates to days of the week, time of day, meals, hypos and hyperglycemia trends, and so on. Nice comparison options, especially for me wanting to see how I've improved in the month just before and after my endo visit -- I have!
Granted, this isn't rocket science. But it really confirms how accurate and helpful data platforms can be, in showing your trends and patterns and giving you actionable ways to do better.
But of course right now, CLARITY is only of use to customers of the Dexcom CGM. What about other useful data platforms?
Just a few months ago, we wrote about Glooko's latest and how it's really "grown up" since it came on the scene five years ago. Part of that was the exciting development that this data platform now includes pump and CGM data, and how it will soon integrate with the Medtronic pump-CGM combo devices, too.
In terms of design, the Glooko look seems pretty appealing, much like Dexcom CLARITY. But honestly, I haven't used this system personally because I can't stomach the $60 per year subscription cost -- given that there are a lot of other options for free. And you still have to purchase the MeterSync bluetooth uploader and any specific cables to connect your devices, so it's a commitment, so to speak.
But that may change, hopefully by year's end, with the Medtronic-Glooko integration coming soon. With that, I'd be able to see not only my Medtronic pump data, but also my Dexcom CGM data and any blood sugar data from compatible meters I use. Data all in one place is the end goal, of course!
We don't have any sneak peek as to what that will look like, but we can use our imaginations based on the existing pump-CGM data displays within Glooko now. Medtronic tells us despite its new Minimed Connect platform being launched this Fall, you will not be able to use that new system with Glooko but instead will have to go through their CareLink software. That means Medtronic pumpers will be able to use the Glooko app or log into Glooko online from their smartphone and see data from there -- but it ironically won't connect to Medtronic Connect.
I am curious to experience how well this Glooko-MedT offering performs. We shall see.
Tidepool's Blip App
Disclaimer: over the past several months, I've been participating in a beta test of the Tidepool data system known as Blip.
Blip is the visualization of Tidepool's platform that will be available online and via app. It's still being tweaked and fully developed, but like Glooko, what is most appealing for me right now is that I can bring ALL of my Dexcom CGM and MedT pump data together into one place.
As a beta tester, I'm obliged to keep quiet about the details that are obviously still in development, but I can say that I sure like how this has started off and can't wait to see what comes from Blip once it's ready for prime time!
Other Diabetes Data Options
It's hard to write about diabetes data tracking these days without mentioning the whole CGM in the Cloud movement with open-source options like Nightscout and xDrip. But those of course are aimed at beaming your stream of CGM data anywhere in real-time rather than offering a full picture of data analysis integrated with other devices.
As far as that goes, Diasend is another great resource, but it's not Medtronic-friendly and personally, I haven't liked the look of it historically. Plus until October 2014, Diasend didn't have a mobile app, and even now, it still feels a bit dated and clunky to me. Your Opinions Will Vary of course, just like with diabetes.
So for me, Dexcom CLARITY and before long Glooko seem to be my best options.
The upshot is that it's great to have choices! When it comes to a condition like diabetes that's so driven by data-analysis and data-based decision-making, having a variety of tools at our fingertips is a godsend.
Your thoughts, as fellow peeps dependent on D-Data?