If you're at all interested in diabetes technology and patient advocacy, you should get to know Bernard Farrell. He's a software architect, patient advocate, diabetes technology blogger and father of six (!)  In his "spare time" he's agreed to act as one of our expert judges in this year's DiabetesMine Design Challenge, the $25,000 innovation contest open for submissions until this Friday, April 29 — coming up fast!

Bernard has had type 1 diabetes himself for over 36 years. He's a pumper and CGM expert. He recently shared his life's story over at ASweetLife.org. Today, his thoughts on the Design Challenge and where it could take us:


DM) As a patient advocate and technology-savvy guy, what do you think is currently the missing ingredient in the design process of diabetes tools?

BF) The people, such as the patient, the parent, the nurse-educator, and perhaps finally the endocrinologist. Make things more fun and faster, and you make them easier and more likely to be used.

Diabetes challenges our time in two ways. Each day it steals seconds, minutes and hours from us because of the need to control our blood sugars. If we can't control our levels now, then later it will take away from our lifetime and our ability to lead fuller lives. The devices makers have the short-term issues fairly well covered: meters are faster and small, CGM helps with control. But they're not helping with an integrated systems view. In other words for diabetes, there are things like iPods and iPhones, but where's the diabetes iTunes and a way to put the info together into a dashboard to help us use these tools and the data over days, months and years?

Can you give us some examples of things you'd most like changed?

I'd love to see more color in whatever you're offering. If it's a device, size is critical. Make the device smaller, like could pumps be thinner if the reservoirs were oval shaped? How about more than one size of remote controller? Please customize the alarms. Think about ways to save our time or recognize patterns.

What characteristics do you think make a "killer app" for living with diabetes?

Diabetes is complex and full of numbers, so how about a "diabetes dashboard" that provides a quick summary of how someone is doing and what they might change for better control? People like challenges, so how about using some gaming techniques to encourage the right behavior and awarding points, and keeping a leaderboard?

Can you finish this sentence: "If companies paid more attention to real patient needs, diabetes tools would be..."?

... fun, easy to use, and give us ways to constantly improve our lives with diabetes. Could tools provide tips and updates from experts? Almost everything we use has some amount of customization.  Please think of safe ways to offer this, so our devices and tools are more desirable and easier to use.

How would you define "success" for the DiabetesMine Design Challenge? i.e. what would be your dream outcome for this innovation initiative?

The previous competitions have produced wonderful designs, but few of those have made it to market. I'd like to see some easy-to-implement ideas that we could see on the market very quickly. What I'd love is something that makes me say, "Of course I need that! Why didn't I think of it?!" I'm also hoping to see new ideas from some of the brilliant people who entered in previous years.

Ditto to all of that, Bernard. Thank you!

{ENTER SOON, or forever hold your peace ;)}

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


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.