It’s a thought that eventually crosses the mind of every diabetes parent — and person with diabetes for that matter.
What I need here is simple: A personal assistant/organizer/soothsayer/Sherpa/data input associate that can help me 24/7.
An impossible wish? One dad newer to the diabetes world believes he may have created just that.
Called Gluroo, it’s a mobile app that runs on both Android and iPhone, designed to help you keep track of, make decisions around, share information about, and generally stay on top of all things diabetes.
While Greg Badros created it first for the sake of his own family — his young son was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) in early 2020 — he’s now ramping up to make it available, and affordable, to all.
As a veteran software developer who worked at both Google and Facebook, Badros has the chops to make this new tool a “killer app” for diabetes. He estimates that his now-buzzing Silicon Valley startup will have Gluroo ready for broad launch within a year and a half.
Badros knew little about T1D before his son, whose name he keeps private, was diagnosed during a family ski trip to Deer Valley, Utah.
He and his wife, Ginny, lived through the drink-from-the-firehose experience of adapting to life with T1D in the house, finding solutions as they ferreted out flaws in their care set-up.
They found some flaws to be immediately apparent despite having access to excellent medical support and “all the tools out there,” he said.
First, they noticed that most tools were created for use by adults with diabetes, not as much for parents overseeing the care of a child.
Second, they felt the alerts in most diabetes systems were “done wrong,” he said. For instance, while sitting at dinner with his family, at least three people would have glucose alerts go off at the same time. He saw that as overkill and something that can lead to alarm burnout.
Third, he noticed that most devices were not cross-platform, something he felt was necessary in his family.
So Badros took it upon himself to build an application to help with all that.
One might say he is uniquely qualified, given his impressive background in computer science. He earned a Ph.D. at the University of Washington in Seattle, demonstrating how advanced numerical constraint solving algorithms could be applied to problems such as user-interface, window, and web page layout, and went on to hold leadership positions at both Google and Facebook.
Badros became preoccupied with finding answers to the many nuanced quandaries of daily life with diabetes. His goal was to create a tool that would not only accomplish some diabetes tasks, but actually make people’s lives with diabetes easier to manage overall.
Gluroo (the name comes from a combination of glucose and a kangaroo) does all the things you’d expect a diabetes management app to do, like share glucose data, set reminders, and alarm at high and low glucose thresholds chosen by the user. But it does much more and in a way, Badros hopes, that truly improves quality of life with diabetes.
At first glance, the app interface looks like a simple stream of text messages, but in fact it makes an array of sophisticated capabilities all easily accessible without the need for a complex dashboard.
You can keep track of medication and supply orders, interact with other users for learning and camaraderie, set up your own “GluCrew” support network, and — magically! — easily search for any of these items or any of your past entries simply by typing in a keyword.
The emphasis on a powerful search function was something Badros brought with him from his Google and Facebook background. “The best and most successful consumer apps are incredibly easy to use, including being able to quickly find what you’re looking for,” he said.
The app can actually track and store all the codes, lot numbers, and other details of supplies like continuous glucose monitor (CGM) sensors. You just scan each as you use them, and the app takes over from there.
Should a sensor malfunction, you just tell the app, and it can go ahead and let customer service at your device company know to order replacements, Badros said.
Also, when it’s time for a regular reorder, the app can handle that as well. No need to go rifling through your cabinets to find the previous product boxes.
In this sense, Gluroo may be the new “Alice the Housekeeper” of diabetes.
You can also use your phone to scan pictures of meals, and Gluroo learns your insulin-to-carb ratios for those meals over time, Badros says. You can then search for your favorite burrito, for example, and the app will suggest the ideal insulin dose.
Gluroo is also designed help motivate people, rewarding users with trophies for everything from remembering to log things to using different parts of the app. It’s reminiscent of how video games reward you and seems to be something people respond to well, he said.
There’s an emphasis on motivation and learning for young people, too, built into the alarm system for highs and lows. Unlike other systems, Gluroo can be set up to alarm incrementally.
So in Badros’ case, his son hears an alarm first and is given a period of time to take action. If and when the child takes action, alarming ends there, with no further alert sent to a caregiver or other follower.
Should the child not respond to the alarm, the caregiver/follower then gets an alarm.
Sound like a little thing? Think again. Helping a child learn to react, make decisions, take action, and then feel confident in those actions, or learn from them, is key to developing an independent life with diabetes. That, Badros said, is exactly why they built that into the system.
“I was clear even when my son was 7 that this is HIS condition. I’m here to help, but this is for (the person with diabetes) to learn,” he said.
Badros wants Gluroo to “help drive responsibility in the adolescent with a chronic condition.” Giving them the first option to take action without parental involvement will help build that confidence on both ends he believes.
When a child responds efficiently to an alarm, he said, “the parents are oblivious, which is a good thing.”
Another key component is what the app doesn’t do.
Badros was intent from the start to not alarm people unless it was absolutely necessary — since alarm fatigue is a true challenge for those using tech in diabetes life.
The layered timing for alarms is one example. With that, he said, his recent family dinner with at least three alarms going off at once would instead only have one.
They also purposely left out alarms or beeps for things like trophy awards or other people adding information. Rather, the user can choose when to see that information and access it easily.
“We have a philosophy at Gluroo that every alert must be actionable,” he said. “You should never be alerted to something if the only thing to do is tell the alert to go away.”
For example, if you’ve logged a large meal and an appropriate bolus insulin dose, there’s nothing you need to do immediately if your blood sugar goes above 180 mg/dL (10 mmol/L) — you’re already covered, he said.
“With Gluroo, there’s no alert unless the peak exceeds what you’d expect for the current recorded situation. We bring the discrepancy to the attention of the user and let them assess if perhaps the meal was bigger or smaller than they recorded and dosed for.”
“Gluroo really shines brightest when you bring a ‘GluCrew’ together to collaboratively stay in sync about everything to support a person with diabetes,” Badros said.
That’s why they worked hard at building the app with a team approach. Your own custom GluCrew can include loved ones, healthcare professionals, teachers, school nurses, or any individuals you’d like to interact with on the app.
He describes it as a smart chart approach where the app recognizes what’s going on and helps you manage that information as it changes over time. Every message sent from Gluroo gets tagged not just with the time but also with the current blood glucose reading (either from a CGM or from a recent recording fingerstick meter reading).
So without having to “poke” at one another, each member of the GluCrew can see and share data all day long.
Badros gives the example of feeding his son breakfast.
“When I use my phone to log 56 grams of [carbs from] Honey Nut Cheerios for my son, that message shows up immediately in Gluroo on my wife’s phone and my son’s watch, but it won’t buzz them by default. That can be forced if you @mention the person,” he explained. “We believe this notion of communicating as a group in the context of a stream of data is super important and is the first of our patent-pending inventions in Gluroo.”
He has brought on seven employees since launching his startup during the start of the pandemic. All are engineering and design focused, since their goal to date has been getting a solid, smart, and well-functioning app ready to go. He will soon be hiring more people beyond just engineering, he said.
“We’re opportunistic in hiring in general — if there’s someone who’s super talented and excited about Gluroo and our mission, we have big plans beyond where we are now for the right person to come and help.”
Badros did not provide details on funding, but in response to the question simply said, “The short answer is that Gluroo is a well-funded bootstrapped startup.”
They’re getting ready to dig into logistics, like how to make good on Badros’ vow to make this app available to everyone. That of course means looking at insurance coding to find a way to get broad coverage.
They’re also pondering innovative ideas such as a “Pay it Forward” plan asking customers who can afford it to pay a bit more to help purchase the app for others who cannot afford it.
While he doesn’t expect the price point to be high, his team is committed to the notion of access for all to this tool that he believes “will simplify and quiet down the daily life of people managing T1D.”
“We hope to have all our ducks in a row and make this available within a year and a half,” he said.