We all need a little boost in our diabetes management now and then -- which is why just a straight-up logging or data sharing app often isn't enough. We need some hand-holding and motivation to go with these tech tools.
Having been in D-burnout mode myself for the past few months, I was delighted when offered the chance to trial-test the popular mySugr app's new mobile education and coaching service -- just one in a line of many hitting the mobile health market these days.
This startup, which just opened a San Diego office earlier this year, was founded in Austria three years ago and has quickly risen to the top as a PWD favorite. We've been big fans since day one of this engaging logging and motivational app that features a colorful little "diabetes monster" that users can personalize and name. He pops up continuously to help users stay enthused about the daily routine tasks of diabetes management.
The new mySugr Coaching service was announced in conjunction with this summer's AADE (American Association of Diabetes Educators) conference and officially launched in mid-September. The Head Coach is none other than Gary Scheiner, well-known CDE and author of the seminal book, “Think Like a Pancreas” -- who also won AADE’s 2014 Educator of the Year and has been living with diabetes himself since 1985.
So naturally, I was excited to be part of a small group of D-peeps asked to try this offering out in beta version. Thanks also to mySugr for sending me an iPhone 6 to use temporarily with the product, as it's currently not yet available in the U.S. for Android.
Here's a rundown of my experience:
mySugr Coaching - Basics
What you get from mySugr Coaching is pretty straightforward: it's CDE (certified diabetes educator) interaction, mobile health style.
You can send a message to Gary and his team asking them to help you interpret your data, and within a business day or so they should respond with whatever you might need -- analyzing BG trends, asking what you can do better, supporting and encouraging... and so on. They're some of the country'ss premiere experts on these topics.
Interacting with them is basically texting within the app, activated by clicking the "Coaching" option shown here, with my personalized ID and reference to my mySugr monster, that I named "Blood Sugar Bumble" (because, you know, bumbling with diabetes...)
On the other end, Gary and team have a CDE interface dashboard through which they can view data from all mySugr users, so they're ready to tap in and answer your individualized questions at any time.
Scott Johnson, our DOC friend who serves as mySugr U.S. Communications Lead, tells us feedback has been very positive across the board, with some beta testers even stating that it's "like sitting right next to Gary in the office" and reporting an improvement to their regimen and more predictable BGs.
For my part, my only complaint was that the beta version seemed to be exhibiting some technical issues that delayed the response time from Gary -- not enough impede our ability to keep in touch, but I feel it should be as real-time as possible. I would expect that as the app matures and more CDEs join the mySugr Coaching network, the response time will improve.
Taming My Own BG Monster
During this trial-run, I was using the Accu-Chek Connect meter that talks directly to mySugr and streams data into the iOS smartphone app (this was turned on for the beta-test, and it's in the works for the US). This was very nice, and while manual BG entry doesn't bother me too much, it was truly convenient to have this automated feature.
With an intuitive design, I found the app made it super-easy to shoot off an initial message to Gary and team, asking them to take a look at my BG and CGM data, and records on exercise and Afrezza use.
As I've shared, I decided to stop using my insulin pump in May and have instead been doing MDD (Multiple Daily Doses) with basal insulin Tresiba, inhaled insulin Afrezza, and NovoLog insulin pens. Gary mentioned not having much experience on the Afrezza front, so I felt maybe I could help him gather knowledge there as well.
I have found that using mySugr has given me more insight into just how this insulin combo has been working. In fact, I've found mySugr to offer the best way to track my Afrezza use, even though it currently doesn't include this inhaled insulin as a fast-acting insulin choice in the records menus (that's in the works). Instead, there's a very easy workaround: designating Afrezza as a daily "pill," and then simply logging the units as pills taken and including a note that the med was Afrezza.
I have shared previously that for me, a four-unit Afrezza cartridge seems to have the same impact as 3 units of injected insulin, while an 8-unit cartridge acts like roughly 6 units. So for record-keeping, in each "Afrezza pill" entry, I add a note that says "Afrezza" and how many units it equates to. This allows me to go back over time and search for the term, as well as giving Gary the ability to see exactly how my BG reacted.
One thing I really like is the ability to include photos in this mySugr app. You can snap pictures of food consumed, a particular insulin dosage, or an Afrezza cartridge to add to your data entry. That way, when you scroll through data logs, you can easily see and better remember what was happening that day.
This has all led me to get pretty enthusiastic about entering more data and photos than I ever thought I would, so I really am doing my best to "tame by BG Bumble" monster.
In short, I've found that I have been motivated to keep using the mySugr app -- so much so that I decided it was worth purchasing a monthly subscription for the Pro version at only $2.99 per month. We're told the Coaching service does have an add on cost of $39.99 per month, but that's not what I am interested in using for the moment.
That's totally worth the buy, IMHO!
My goals were: to achieve more stability / less glycemic variability and fewer hypos, and to begin moving the needle down on my A1C results. Good goals, right?!
With those goals in mind, I personally feel mySugr and this coaching service are tools that would help me do better and achieve the goals I'm pushing for -- even with some D-burnout along the way.
Keeping It Fresh
As to changes and improvements, Scott says mySugr is on a "very consistent release cycle" of pushing out updates almost every two weeks. Those updates range from new learnings and tweaks to boosts to the overall app features. The mySugr team is also working closely with Gary and his team to improve and evolve the mySugr Coaching interface and release updates every couple weeks.
All I can say to the mySugr crew is: Thanks for upping the ante on diabetes apps!
We're eager to see how you continue rolling out these fun diabetes management tools, and especially connecting PWDs with seasoned professionals like Gary Scheiner who know their stuff and can really help.
We're looking forward to seeing more community feedback on this, and can't wait for whatever's next!