Suddenly, it seems to be raining diabetes iPhone apps. Many of them offer sophisticated graphing of your glucose data, or educational materials, medication reminders, training videos, and even links to purchase supplies. Notice that NOT ONE of the logging apps offers a way around manual entry of your numbers — ugh!
New Glooko, due on the market Nov. 15, aims to change all that. It will be the first available plug-in cable between popular glucose meter models and the iPhone/ iPad that automatically "sucks up" your data, and offers a very simple logbook-style app to view it.
The company's motto is "free your data"!
When I say this app is simple, I mean SIMPLE. No graphs, no quizzes, no reminders. No fancy stuff. At least in version 1.0.
All Glooko does is offer a very clean interface that allows users to view 14 days' worth of glucose data, add some meal tags and notes on carb intake, dosing, activity and mood, and with the push of a "share" button, send that data to your doctor or other providers via email or fax.
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But to a lot of people, Simple is Good.
That's what Glooko, a small startup company of seven people based in Palo Alto, CA, is betting on — scores of PWDs out there who mostly test just a few times a day, and currently aren't doing anything to capture their data. Now they'll have an easy way to connect their meter* via a simple cable to their iPhone or iPad for a quick data download that produces a very clear, easily printable one-pager for them and their doctor to review.
The MeterSync Cable portion will go on sale at Amazon.com for $39.95, and the app will be free at the iTunes store.
*Bayer Contour, OneTouch, and FreeStyle meters are supported, which make up 50% of all meters used by people with diabetes, Glooko claims. The FreeStyle meters require a small adapter, which comes free of charge with Glooko's MeterSync Cable.
When Glooko ships in mid-November, it will be the first product to enable automatic data downloading from your glucose meter to a smartphone.
Note that AgaMatrix's iPhone/iPad cable connector, previewed last summer, has been "strategically held back" from market for distribution reasons, that company tells me. (Waiting on the iBGStar?) It only works with the WaveSense Jazz meter anyway.
Interestingly, one of three Glooko co-founders is Anita Mathew, formerly of JnJ Lifescan. She was the woman who stood on stage and made the presentation of Lifescan's then-groundbreaking iPhone app for diabetes, at Apple's iPhone OS 3.0 Preview Event here in San Francisco back in 2009. That app turned out to be Vaporware! (it never came to market), which frustrated the hell out of Anita, along with many others :o — which is one clear reason why Anita is with Glooko today.
"This is essentially the technology that we developed, but they never did anything with it," Anita says. "Our co-founder Yogan Dalal (a successful an entrepreneur and engineer) has pre-diabetes and works hard to control his glucose levels. His feeling was, 'Let's get something out there people can use now that actually makes their lives easier. It's a building block — it's one more step you've eliminated for me.' Right now it's functional, not sexy."
Without the algorithms for identifying trends, they're aiming mostly at Type 2's and women with gestational diabetes, who will appreciate an easy-to-use electronic logbook. This lack of algorithms is actually what's helping the company toss this app to market directly, bypassing the FDA; a so-called Class 1 device — that does no manipulation of data, but only moves data from point A to point B — does not require 510k approval.
But Glooko does plan to expand on its offerings and apply for FDA approval of more sophisticated features next year.
"Glooko provides doctors something to trust because the readings are downloaded," Anita notes. "Right now, 80% of diabetics out there don't see endos, and many of them are just not engaged at all with their diabetes care."
Are there similar products out there? Yes, of course. Two that come to mind as the most obvious would-be competitors are iGlucose and WellDoc, both covered in our AADE report on mobile diabetes management tools this summer.
iGlucose, still under development, is a device that patients can attach to whatever glucose meter brand they use, via a universal cable, to automatically download and transmit the most recent data to a server, where BG readings can be viewed on a web portal. So it's not a smartphone app. And it's not yet been FDA cleared. Also, it appears to focus on providing information to the caregiver, rather than patients themselves.
WellDoc, on the other hand, is a sophisticated diabetes program based in your smartphone, but it is marketed to patients and healthcare professionals for use together as a team effort. This means patients will not be able to use this phone-based system completely on their own. It's being distributed via employer groups and health care plans. And, like most everything else, it requires manual entry of glucose numbers.
Maybe it's just me, but I find Glooko's "building block" approach interesting, mainly because no one else seems to be playing in this space. For example, I can imagine my mom, who monitors her numbers once or twice a day for pre-diabetes treatment, using this super-easy cable plug-in (if and when she gets an iPhone, that is!). I mean, she hates having to write the numbers down (who doesn't?) and often forgets.
The Glooko cable is not eligible for insurance coverage, btw, but you can write off the cost on your HSA - health care spending account.
To be fair and balanced, we must note that not everyone thinks iPhone apps for diabetes are the best thing since sliced bread. Outspoken diabetes industry consultant David Kliff, aka Diabetic Investor, had this to say when queried:
"The basic premise of all of these companies is that patients will actually take the time to attach the device to their iPhone, and then, working with their apps manage their diabetes better. As I have also noted in the past, all of these efforts are targeted at insulin-using patients, as they value this information and would benefit most from the information. I think a more relevant question is, who's writing all these apps and are they actually helping the patient?"
Duly noted. But it looks like Glooko is trying to bridge the gap to Type 2's by offering them a super-simple plug-in solution. Can't fault them for trying, I say.