CGM is here. So is diabetes distress

Cyndi Williams
Cyndi Williams

Last month the UK announced that every person with type 1 diabetes will get access to life-changing real-time continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM) technology.

This is great news.

This week, the Quin team announced support for the CGM device most funded by the UK government and many US insurers, the Abbott Freestyle Libre.

Also great news.

But the reality is: new diabetes technologies are still not silver-bullet solutions 

We have a massive global access problem, and it’s widely known that it’s not going away anytime soon. The rich world may find a way to afford the latest devices and algorithms, but that won’t be enough. Consider the numbers:

  • Roughly 40 million people who take insulin
  • Roughly 6 million have a CGM
  • Maybe 600,000 have an automated insulin delivery (AID) system

So even with very high adoption of CGM and AID in the rich world (which we are certainly seeing!) these technologies won’t be for everyone. In 10 years, the majority of people globally will still have to manually check their blood sugar and inject insulin. And even if the latest tech was accessible to all, would it really solve all the day to day problems of managing diabetes?

Everyday, people with diabetes – no matter how tech’ed up they are – face the unrelenting pressure to manage diabetes. The stress, anxiety and worry. The uncertainty that penetrates every aspect of their day-to-day life. The fatigue from the relentlessness of self-managing a condition no one understands. Often leading to diabetes burnout and depression. 

As technologists, it’s easy to gloss over this reality. 

We like to think that if we can use algorithms to predict and automate all things diabetes, the rest will take care of itself. That may be true somewhere down the line (10+ years), but if we put our high-tech “automated everything” dreams in the back seat for a minute, we see many glaringly obvious life-critical self-management problems that have gone unnoticed through every era of diabetes technology. Many of these problems can be solved, or at least meaningfully alleviated, today – even with low-tech diabetes kit. 

I’m talking about diabetes fatigue, anxiety, stress, depression – all of which have been very well-documented for decades. The root causes here are entirely targetable and addressable with some good old fashioned critical thinking, a willingness to face the truth, very good design, and yes, a few algorithms. We need to get on the stick.

And we have shoulders to stand on. Frugal Innovation – developing quality affordable solutions in resource-constrained environments – has led to major breakthroughs in science and engineering in many sectors across the developing world. The diabetes tech sector, particularly in the rich world should take note.

Where diabetes self-management is concerned, it’s time to stop making algorithms and start making solutions.

It may sound quite basic, and in many ways it is: we need to make technology that supports and educates each person with diabetes in a way that makes sense for them, using the tools they have available. We need to help them build confidence and resilience to manage on their own – where 99% of diabetes care happens – and live life on their own terms.

That’s what we do at Quin – personalized education, support and guidance to reduce diabetes distress and improve diabetes outcomes. And guess what? We’re doing it affordably, at scale, and now – not 10 years from now!

Cyndi Williams
Cyndi Williams