A little nagging can go a long way when it comes to keeping on top of all that diabetes life requires of us.
I know that firsthand, as I've done my fair share of slacking through these past 30 years of living with type 1. Thankfully, I've also had an awesome support team over the years that has helped "get me in gear" when I most needed a boost.
The same can be said for Herb Meehan, of the Los Angeles, CA, area who has been living with type 2 for about 15 years now. A software engineer by trade, Herb's created a new mobile app and web-based program to offer those most necessary reminders to PWDs who need and want them.
He calls the program Lifebringer, as that's what it has done for him. And the little reminder at work in it has the clever name, Nagbot.
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"At its core, Lifebringer is a diabetic journal where you enter blood sugars and keep track of your health data. But what makes this different is that this free logging system has a nagging feature for those who need it -- for those people who don't want to stick their heads in the sand and ignore their diabetes," Herb says.
The idea stems from his own life with type 2 that began in 1999, at the age of 26. Before then, Herb was in perfect health and didn't have any family history so the diagnosis came as quite a shock; he didn't fit the type 2 stereotype that was all he knew about diabetes at that time. Starting off on pills, Herb eventually switched to insulin but says he wasn't nearly as on top of his D-management as he should have been.
Partly due to what Herb describes as poor diabetes control through the years, he lost vision completely in one eye and his vision deteriorated in his other eye. But thanks to his wife Maryam's encouragement, cajoling and nagging him to do better, Herb started improving how he took care of himself. And although he left work last year to limit his stress and not endanger his vision and health even more, Herb's now diligently bringing his software engineering experience to the diabetes management world full-time.
Since the mid-90s, Herb's been developing software and watching the evolution of Windows and the Internet into the social media and wireless world that we've come to know. He's always loved web apps and centralized data, and he reflects on his 2003-development of a Windows-based program called Diabetic Software. That was a $40-subscription service that allowed users to record various things like meds, exercise, diet, mood and weight, and then view graphs and charts breaking down that health information.
But he now sees that early approach as too daunting -- it wasn't free and just asked too much of people, overwhelming them, Herb says. That's what paved the way for his development of Lifebringer a decade later in 2013. He created this much more simple and user-friendly program based on his own need for reminders. He now wonders if something like this could have helped him throughout the years when he needed those reminders most.
Since Lifebringer's launch last year, about 750-800 people are registered to use it, and about 75-80 of those people are active, daily day users, he says, while the rest use Lifebringer off and on periodically. So it's still in growth stages.
"I like to describe Nagbot as a virtual caregiver," Herb said during a phone interview. "I didn't want another glorified, cold spreadsheet that you would just dump numbers into. This makes it warm, not just a spreadsheet like you normally have seen. The software actually tells you how you're doing, and makes suggestions on how to be better. What makes Nagbot different is that he'll talk to you in clear English, and if you want will nag you. Some people want those reminders, while some may not need them. You can set the nag feature to get a random email every 1 to 3 days, reminding and also encouraging you in a friendly way to keep testing and sending reports so you know where you're at."
Getting started is very easy.
All you have to do is input your name and email address and a very small amount of additional information, and then you can immediately start putting in blood sugar numbers. Lifebringer does the rest in generating trend reports, an A1C estimate, and of course, the email reminders.
Herb says that from experience, he knows the feeling of wanting to avoid all the work that can go into taking care of diabetes each day -- and he knows many fellow PWDs, especially those with non-insulin-dependent type 2, who don't pay much attention to blood sugar results and other health data.
"It's not a knock at type 2s, but I know personally that there are a lot of diabetics who may feel fine, but aren't managing as well as they could," he said. "I've been there, and still am sometimes. Sometimes it feels like a second job, logging my blood sugars. And that's what I hope this can help with, to help remind you. Entering numbers by itself isn't going to magically do something for your health. I know that, but it's a matter of making someone more diligent overall."
Herb acknowledges that Lifebringer is mainly designed for type 2 PWDs and the newly-diagnosed, but he thinks type 1s can make good use of the program as well -- because honestly, we all get to a point sometimes where we need a little encouragement or nagging, right?!
While it does involve manual entry, Herb says it's worth it in this case because the personalized reminders can be so helpful. He also wants to explore more wireless integration and integration with other diabetes data apps or devices, he says. But since this is his one-man operation without any corporate or company backing, it's tough to know if and how that could materialize.
Here's one way: Herb has turned to crowdfunding on Kickstarter to help fund his efforts and keep Lifebringer going for the next few years. That campaign ends on June 24, so jump in now if you're motivated to help.
"I've made a lot of software in the past 20 years, but this is the only one I'm really proud of," Herb says. "Sure, those stress test analyzers for real estate mortgage or financial companies are important. But this one is personal and is helping people with their health!"