We've had a close eye on Glooko, the small California company creating a mobile health platform for diabetes data, ever since it first came on the scene in 2011.
Glooko has made great headway in these past four years; it's solution is now compatible with 35 different glucose meter models and 7 activity and health trackers, and the company has just launched new data display user interfaces for the first insulin pump (tubeless OmniPod) and continuous glucose monitor (Dexcom G4), which went live on Aug. 12. In the coming months, we can expect to see Medtronic pump and CGM interfaces launched as well, following the June agreement Medtronic signed to work with Glooko.
That agreement is HUGE, given Medtronic's track record for keeping all its device data in-house and only viewable through its own web-based CareLink system.
This all gives Glooko a lead over competitor Diasend, which has been at the data-sharing game for a decade now. Diasend is free of charge, and does allow data uploading from many different meter brands, three insulin pumps (Animas, OmniPod and Tandem), the Dexcom CGM and several fitness trackers. But that program is web-based and requires meter cables and computer software to connect -- so not mobile health
as we've come to define it these days.
The non-profit group Tidepool is also developing a platform to bring data from numerous diabetes devices together into one central spot, and has announced agreements with many leading device vendors. But that solution hasn't hit market yet (hopefully by the end of this year).
Notably, neither of the above organizations has managed to bring insulin pump market leader Medtronic on board yet.
So with its newest mobile capabilities and Medtronic partnership, Glooko is the horse to watch in this race at the moment.
We had the chance recently to connect with Glooko CEO Rick Altinger and Marketing Manager Vikram Singh to chat about the latest developments, what's in the works, and their long-term vision for what Glooko can ultimately offer our data-centric Diabetes Community.
"From a high level perspective, it's all about reducing the burden -- first and foremost, for the person with diabetes and secondly for the physicians and support team," Altinger told us. "How we get there is an ongoing journey, from more devices to more user engagement and feature functionality, and developing pattern recognition and algorithms to offer advice on what people might want to do."
An Evolving Solution
When Glooko first launched in 2011, its sole product was a cable patients could use to connect their glucose meter to an iPhone in order to suck up the data into the Glooko platform. It was a nice, simple workaround to bypass the fact that meters were all restricted to sharing data only with proprietary software systems of their vendors. But still... it was another cable to deal with, on top of all the others most patients are fussing with already. And it only supported a few of the D-devices on the market back then.
A lot has changed.
Fast forward to Summer 2015: Not only does Glooko now work with a few-dozen different meters, but in October 2014 a new Bluetooth option was introduced, the Glooko MeterSync Blue, which is a little black Bluetooth box that plugs into your meter and then wirelessly sends your data to the Glooko smartphone app (both Android and iOS).
Now the Medtronic pump and CGM integration is also in development, hopefully becoming available by year's end.
And as mentioned, Glooko just introduced user interfaces for both Insulet and Dexcom, launching those on Aug. 12 with a free webinar open to the public. New images and demos of the Pod and Dexcom features were unveiled during that webinar, and here's what some of those look like:
Going for Market Leaders
"What we've found in talking to endos and the Diabetes Community, is that there's a need for pumps and CGMs to be included on Glooko," Altinger says. "There's a desire to solve this need for type 1, while also solving the needs for folks with type 2. We started two years ago down a path for pumps and CGMs... but there was a move we had to make in order to keep going on that path."
Altinger tells us they knew they needed Medtronic, the market leader in insulin pump sales with about 60-65% of the market share. Without that company on board, they believed "going for pumps wouldn't make sense." Glooko was also convinced they needed the No. 2 leader in the pump market, which they discovered was currently Insulet, makers of the OmniPod (followed by JnJ Animas, Tandem, and then Roche Accu-Chek).
Glooko tells us they're also excited to launch integration with the new Accu-Chek Connect Bluetooth-enabled glucose meter that was just launched here in the States on Aug. 7 (available for $29.99 exclusively at Walgreens). This is the first big brand name meter to offer built-in Bluetooth Low Energy, meaning it will automatically connect not only to its own paired app, but with the Glooko iPhone/Android smartphone apps without any need for cables. This meter is also unique in that it's the first to include an insulin-dosing calculator.
Using the Data
Of course, all of these cool solutions are only as good as the practical value they offer to patients. How usable is the data in our day-to-day management?
Glooko execs tell us they're working hard on better consumer features, like medication reminders, and exercise tracking that might help us plan properly for physical activity. For example, if a user worked an extra shift at a strenuous job every Thursday and therefore got more exercise that day, the system could remind them to use less basal insulin the night before, as they go to bed.
Glooko also wants to improve its overall user engagement and data views, allowing for searchability in glucose data and the ability to tag events so you can better recognize patterns and trends (i.e. you could tag when you visit a fave pizza place, to see what effect that had on your blood sugar and use it for future reference).
Data pulled from activity trackers iHealth, FitBit and Strava can be combined with the diabetes device data to provide a better overall picture, along with custom alerts or reminders.
Moreover, Glooko tells us they're also pushing to include "population health" as a key part of their solution. What this means is culling data from numerous users and providing it to physicians, who could set alerts to be notified when an average glucose has gone up dramatically, or when the number of severe hypos has risen.
"That notification-on-demand is for the broader population of patients a doctor has, and a key development we've put out there to help them to see red flags in their mix of patients," Altinger says.
Down the road, he says we'll see more web-based uploaders for both Mac and PC, additional connected meters and probably even smart insulin pens (like the NovoPen Echo already on the market) start being added to the list of Glooko-compatible options.
Oh, and in case you're wondering what Glooko isn't setting its sights on -- that would be Artificial Pancreas and closed loop technology. Nope, not going there, Altinger tells us. "That's a whole different area of tech we aren't interested in going after."
Still, at some point, in working with third-party algorithm developers, Glooko wants to fine-tune how it's able to make recommendations based on past days or weeks of data. "Those algorithms were developed for the Artificial Pancreas, but they can be used for more open-loop systems where the data is compiled," he explained.
Not Just for the Tech-Savvy
One of the most fascinating aspects of our conversation with Glooko was how they're really focused on the WHOLE D-Community -- meaning all types and device users, as well as those who aren't as well-connected to this mobile health and online world.
Glooko is working its way into more physicians' offices, integrating with Electronic Health Records (EHRs) to make the doctors lives easier, and they're also bringing "Glooko kiosks" to health facilities where patients can plug in their devices there and have all the data downloaded onto their doctor's in-office data platforms.
"Not everyone has mobile technology or the ability to log in and see their data," Altinger says. "Or when someone first gets introduced to Glooko, they don't know about it or have the same access as they might after using it. So, they can use this technology (at their clinic), walking in and going to this kiosk where they can create an account, download data and get a unified printout of their data to take with them. And then the'll receive an email telling them how to access this, whether they plan to use it remotely or not."
Glooko notes that this clinician setup is a way for many patients to get access to Glooko for free, bypassing the $59 per year pricetag normally required for full access.
In Praise of Glooko
Our community has long bemoaned the lack of interoperability of diabetes devices and a way to bring all of our data together into one central spot (Hello, #WeAreNotWaiting movement!)
And we give kudos to Glooko for working hard to change that.
As a Medtronic pumper myself, I've been wishing for this data-integration for years and am very excited to see my pump company finally listening to those cries for change! I use a Medtronic Minimed Revel pump, a Dexcom G4 CGM and a Bayer Contour Next Link, along with a backup OneTouch Mini meter. And thanks to Glooko and all of its brand-name partners, every one of these devices can be downloaded to Glooko.
In other words, with Medtronic now teamed up with Glooko, I will soon be able to see ALL OF MY DATA IN ONE PLACE (which is obviously huge for me, thus the CAPS).
Imagine... when I am sitting at home analyzing my glucose trends, or asking my doctor to do the same in his office, now the two of us will be able to view a clear, single platform instead of flipping between multiple windows or pieces of paper. That consolidation of course means we can get a better picture of how I'm doing and what we need to work on.
This is what I've wanted for as long as I've been using all of these diabetes devices... so what an incredible victory this feels like!
Thanks for all you're doing, Glooko, especially for continuing to expand the devices you work with. Can't wait to see how quickly the Medtronic interface comes together and what Glooko tackles after that.