Why diversity matters when building diabetes tech

Ashley Rolfmore
Ashley Rolfmore

At Quin, we believe that in order to build an app that matters for people with diabetes, you must first listen to people with diabetes. 


Unsurprisingly, many people without diabetes have a mainstream view of what diabetes looks like. Google search results are clinically focused and people fill in the gaps, leading to stigma and bad assumptions. For example: 

  • they may think you “grow out” of T1D
  • they may think you can cure diabetes with diet
  • someone may be surprised when they see someone with diabetes exercise, or participate in sports, or eat sugar


So what does this mean for software for people with diabetes?


Traditionally, when people without diabetes create software for people with diabetes, their whole approach is centred on the health care professional, not the person with diabetes. All design, testing and even what ideas are considered useful are from the clinician’s point of view. If blood glucose levels aren’t showing as desired, often the issue is put down to compliance. 


This leaves a gap in the market for self care for people with diabetes. User-powered software development, otherwise known as our human-first approach. Our Research Programme starts with the user first. 


Starting with the user means talking with people!


At Quin, we started our research by talking to people with diabetes to find out what they needed to manage their diabetes. We initially just asked them about the app, but we found out so much more by not just looking at them as statistics. For example, we learnt why pumps often have teeth marks on them, and that mastering insulin dosing for pizza is very tough! 


We’ve met lots of professions for example train drivers, accountants, designers, management consultants and pharmacists. We’ve learnt lots about people’s families, as we met devoted mothers, fathers and even grandparents. We’ve discovered many different approaches to technology from adults of all ages. 


There’s also lots of exciting things we loved. There were plenty of interesting hobbies like quad biking, roller derby, snake and lizard capturing and theatre work. There are also a myriad of ways to keep fit like pilates, spinning, cycling, running, swimming and football and we learnt how much activity mattered in people’s lives. And then we discovered lots of people’s favourite foods like steak, pizza, kinder bueno and peanut butter! 


It’s been amazing to learn about our users and the lives they lead. We’ve been privileged to meet our users, discover their lives and how they manage their diabetes. 


What conclusions have we got so far?


Unsurprisingly, we have proof that diabetes is extremely diverse which is why we have kept a human-centric approach since day 1. Making assumptions about someone’s life, or character due to diabetes is not only insensitive, but downright foolish. 


We’ve also learnt through our users that we need to fit into people’s lives – there is no point making an app that doesn’t take these differences into account. As a result, the Quin app is designed with no judgement or assumptions about food, blood glucose, insulin, or lifestyle. You do you, and we’ll fit around your life.

Interested in helping?

You can get involved and help us by signing up to our research programme and becoming a Quin beta user here: https://quintech.io/apply/

Ashley Rolfmore
Ashley Rolfmore