We're excited to share the story of another one of our 2013 DiabetesMine Patient Voices Scholarship winners who were announced in August.

Today, we talk with Kyle McClain from Knoxville, Tennessee, who wishes there were more diabetes tech choices for the newly diagnosed, especially those living with type 2 who might feel intimidated by some of the seemingly complex existing tools.

When he was diagnosed himself a few years ago, Kyle began looking for technology for support -- but he wasn't too pleased with what he found. That's why this 40-year-old PWD is using his experience in the software technology industry to develop a new mobile application to help PWDs "keep track of everything," and that's also encouraging and requires minimal effort.

 

DM) First off Kyle, what's your KM Headshot 2013_475_widediagnosis story?

KM) In December 2010, I was diagnosed with type 2. We had just moved to Knoxville and I was, at the time, working from home and was just always tired. Mowing the yard would just wipe me out. I was having tons of trouble with allergies, and I just generally didn't feel well. I just thought, "I'm way out of shape. I don't exercise. I don't take care of myself." I didn't think much of it. Then I went on a trip to China. Before I left, I thought I had a bladder infection and I went in and the doctor agreed I probably had one. He put me on a round of antibiotics and it seemed to get a little better. I went on this trip and had trouble with needing to go to the restroom constantly. Traveling kind of amplified that issue. I suffered through that trip. When I returned, I left for a trip to Oklahoma. As my wife and I were driving back, we were talking about how I wasn't able to shake that infection. She said, "I think I read somewhere that's an indication of diabetes and it can be a symptom." I pulled my phone out and did some quick research and thought, yeah this is definitely what it could be. When I was tested, my blood sugar was almost 600! I like to tell people I was a raging diabetic and didn't know it. My blood sugar was completely out of control and I had no idea what was going on.

Innovation 2015

Looking back, I was probably diabetic or pre-diabetic for years before that and the connection was never made. I am over 6'2" and was about 270 pounds at the time. Since then, I've dropped about 60 pounds and made some pretty significant changes. I was just starting to see the signs of kidney damage and since then, it's all been eliminated or reversed. I feel much much better. I'm not off meds yet. My next goal is to get off medication. I don't know if I'll ever get there, but I hope to.

So tell us why you decided to enter our Patient Voices Contest?

As I started grappling with my diagnosis, I immediately began looking for resources. I don't want to say I was disappointed, but I surprised at the really low volume of resources for diabetics -- especially considering the growing problem that its becoming and all the advancement of technology use of technology within the diabetic community. It's not driven by lack of want -- I think most diabetics want to see more and better technology. I don't know if they [technology companies] don't perceive that it's a need or a want. I've been trying to read and figure out if it's an economic issue or lack of initiative issue -- that part is not clear to me yet.

That's what inspired me to apply. I'd love to help encourage the drive in technology, especially when it comes to supporting diabetics. I think there's a lot of opportunity to support a diabetic in a lot of different ways -- making management of diabetes more effective by equipping patients with more information and making it easier to collect and understand that information.

What kind of diabetes technology do you think is missing (beyond insulin pumps, delivery devices, CGMs, and meters)?

Maybe a better statement is that I'm surprised at how far behind that technology is. If you look at where the integrations of smartphones and Bluetooth technology is versus where the rest of world is, diabetes tech is at least five years behind. It's not the lack of use, but what appears to be an extremely long adoption time in order to integrate. There may be some good reasons for that like FDA approval, but even so, it seems like it's way, way behind. When I can connect my Nike fit band to my smart phone, and that came out about six months ago, I should be able to do that with my meter.

What did you aim to convey in your entry?

My desire is to help spark the innovative use of technology in support of people with diabetes.

How would you do that?

What I would love to do is push toward a protocol standard when it comes to communication between devices and data and how it's organized in a database. Then, developers who are going to develop software to go along with those devices have a standard to work from. Network software is based on IEEE standards. It's advantageous for the diabetes community to develop a standard for data and a way to communicate that data back and forth so that everyone is working on the same set of rules.

{Editor's Note: He's speaking our language on interoperability standards!}

Gludi LogoYou're in the early stages of developing a new diabetes data app called Gludi. What is it exactly?

First, the name is pretty simple: It's the first three letters of glucose and first two letters of diabetes. Gludi's goal is to provide diabetics with the best of both worlds when it comes to self managing your own diabetes. We will accomplish this with a beautiful app that makes it simple to track glucose numbers, confirm you have taken medications and review the analytics from that data. Then, complementing the app with a human component, Gludi will give a diabetic the ability to build a support group that can support and encourage them. Simply put, our goal is to take the things about diabetes that are hard and make them easy.

Can you give us some examples of what your app would do, and how it's different from the many apps out there?

The main difference in terms of keeping track of glucose numbers is that it's going to be driven by the app and the schedule the app sets up rather than by the individual. I believe all apps out there now require users to open the app, and then enter information that the app asks for. My app will say, "It's time for you to record your test number - what's that number?" Like a push notification. It will immediately bring the user to the interface to enter their number, and ask them to confirm they've taken Metformin in the morning, or any other medicine they are supposed to be taking on a regular basis.

What no other app that I've seen for diabetes does in any way is promote accountability -- a partner system. You'll have a select group of individuals who also use the app who also have diabetes. Let's say their blood sugar readings are running high for certain period of time, it will alert their friends to say, "Hey, Kyle's blood sugar is running a little high. Why don't you reach out to him?" It's something that helps them bring other people in to help them with what they're dealing with. At the same time, it will also send out notifications when they're doing a great job taking care of things. I'm not aware of any diabetes app doing anything like that.

{Editor's Note 2: Kyle was unaware of the Diabesties app and the Omada Health approach to group combating of pre-diabetes; he's got some networking to do}

So what made you decide to build your own tool?

When I was first diagnosed, I was in the mobile development software business. Immediately, I went looking for apps for diabetics. I found several that were good at what they were designed to do -- they tracked numbers. I felt like there was a lot of stuff lacking that could be there. All the apps out there are a digital version of the paper logbook people kept 30 years ago. Technology gives us an opportunity to figure out things more difficult for a paper log to do.

When do you expect Gludi to be available to the public?

Right now, my hope is to have the first version of the app on the market in six months or less. Some of it will hinge on funding, and in terms of fundraising, I'm looking at either a kick start campaign, crowd-funding, or possible investments. Those decisions haven't quite been made yet.

Quick: what's your 140-character tweet reflecting your feelings on diabetes tools and technology?

It's time for diabetes tech to catch up. If I can connect a Fitbit via bluetooth, it's silly that I can't do the same with a glucose meter.

Even though mHealth seems to be the big buzz these days, the regulatory hurdles have been a roadblock for many in the medical device world. How would you address that?

I'm not as familiar with what's being done there. That's an area that is going to be more difficult for me to comment on. It's difficult to see why that's a problem. If everybody is so slow to act on it, there's some kind of practical reason for it. I know that needs to be explored.

What are your thoughts about attending the 2013 DiabetesMine Summit?DM_PatientVoices_Bug_2013

I most hope for connecting with other people that are like-minded -- and contributing any way I can to help the advancements move forward. Whether it's my own project or somebody else's, I want to do what I can to help.

How can this kind of advocacy potentially affect your life and the lives of other PWDs?

I think that developing new tools and technology can make the transition into a diabetic lifestyle simpler and more successful. I think a lot of times, it's hard for people. Not everybody is as proactive as I was. I immediately made the changes necessary to bring it under control for myself and I think that's harder for other people. I think using tools and technology to encourage the behavior and actions required to make those changes can change the lives of millions of people -- even pre-diabetics.

 

We look forward to talking more with Kyle and learning how Gludi develops!

 
Disclaimer: Content created by the Diabetes Mine team. For more details click here.

Disclaimer

This content is created for Diabetes Mine, a consumer health blog focused on the diabetes community. The content is not medically reviewed and doesn't adhere to Healthline's editorial guidelines. For more information about Healthline's partnership with Diabetes Mine, please click here.