The 4 biggest problems with diabetes apps

Barry Rogers
Barry Rogers
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Have you ever downloaded a diabetes app, used it for a week or two before deciding it wasn’t for you? Did you then try another app in the hope that it was better? Was it more or less the same with a different look? You are not alone.

 

– “Around half of all people with diabetes report having tried at least one app to help manage diabetes.

 

It’s a great thing to be searching for. You will spend about 3 hours with your healthcare professionals every year so for the other 8,757 hours it would be great to have more support from technology.

The vast majority of people are now living with smartphones. We have experienced the benefits in shopping and entertainment, managing our finances and keeping in touch with loved ones. Why hasn’t the health industry made the same progress in allowing us to better manage diabetes?

Here are 4 reasons Quin has identified why diabetes apps are failing in 2020 and what we are doing to tackle these problems.

 

1. Translating paper to digital

 

Paper logbooks are the traditional way of managing diabetes. You can track your food and insulin intake with a pen and paper in the absence of a better solution. 

This helps people survive but is not close to being a good enough solution. The time and effort involved negatively affect mental health. Life is constantly interrupted to make notes or take guesses when logging retroactively. Food and drink you don’t want to remember are purposefully not logged for fear of judgement. Medical decisions are made from incomplete and inaccurate records.   paper to digital

This exact approach has been replicated by diabetes apps. The visuals are prettier, it’s slightly easier to log and you can scroll back without carrying a book around but has anything really changed? 

Health targets are still missed by 90% of people with diabetes. The mental load to accurately log every action you take is exhausting with higher rates of anxiety, depression and stress than the wider population. 

Quin’s solution

With the processing power and experience that digital technology and smartphones can offer, there is no reason to simply slap a pretty visual onto an old and failing strategy. We have the opportunity to rethink how diabetes can be approached and self-managed.

– “Quin has started from scratch. 

We’re looking at diabetes with a new perspective. We’re trying to change the way you think about diabetes. Recording actions is still important but not so you can spend hours looking through your history. We use your records to look at the future. We let technology do the hard work so you can free up your mind to focus on what’s important to you – your friends and family, your work, your life.

 

2. Bolus calculations don’t take into account all factors

 

There are more factors that affect blood sugar than insulin and carbs. There are more than proteins and fats. There are more than the amount of exercise you’ve done today. There are 42 factors that we know. There are likely dozens more that we don’t yet know. And we barely understand how the factors we do know affect blood sugar. 

bolus calculator

What we do know for sure is that everyone has a different set of factors which affect them personally.

Most diabetes apps still focus on tracking carbs and insulin alongside blood glucose. Some allow for macronutrient (proteins, fats) or activity logging. Some have crude and generic bolus calculators with complex carb ratios that keep you in range sometimes and not others. 

This is not a failure in you to calculate correctly. This is a limitation of the ratios themselves.

Blood sugar prediction apps use these basic measures to perform calculations. Their algorithms assume that people with diabetes have the same, underlying condition and not complex variations with the same symptoms. 

No one can get close to taking into account all the factors that can potentially affect you when you need to make a diabetes decision. The technology doesn’t exist to monitor every factor yet. 

Quin’s solution

The Quin app is built on the assumption that we will never know everything. 

We could tell you to go for a run now or that you should eat your sandwich and salad at 1pm and not 12:30pm but when you’ve got a meeting scheduled at 12:45pm or are at restaurant or have a child that needs looking after, unhelpful advice is the last thing you want to hear. 

quin diabetes management

Instead, we provide an experience which supports you with your next diabetes decision. We understand that you are the only person with enough knowledge and experience of your body and what you are planning to do next. We trust you to do what’s best for you with the information we show.

 

3. Information shown at the wrong time

 

You’re about to eat lunch. You’ve got 30 minutes. You know you’ll be injecting 10 minutes before eating. You know it takes about 20 minutes to eat comfortably. 

diabetes data in real time

Do you want to spend 15 minutes scrolling through a diabetes logbook to look at your past logs, trying to guess at what happened the last time you took 2 units of insulin for this lunch? Or worse, do you want to spend your free time analysing your data in the hopes that you can work out a pattern to improve your next diabetes decision?

Diabetes apps are not built to be in the moment. They are built for reviewing, ideally with your diabetologist. Unfortunately, this is of very little use the 8,757 hours a year when you have to look after yourself in the moment. 

Quin’s solution

Quin shares the most important information with you at the time you most need it – when making a diabetes decision. Our app collects your data and evaluate your past for you. It simplifies that information and shares it with you visually to support you. We aim to get you in and out of the Quin app as fast as possible. 

diabetes data collection

Quin is not going to waste precious minutes of your lunch time. Or any of your time.

 

4. Not sharing blood sugar data

 

Your data isn’t made freely available to you to use how you wish. 

The manufacturers of continuous blood glucose monitors (CGM) do not make your real time information available to you anywhere outside of their apps. This means they have no incentive to improve as you are locked in to using their app.

blood sugar data

Some diabetes apps and DIY closed loop systems hack together solutions to request the real time data. However, this leads to potentially dangerous apps, accessing data outside of terms and conditions, and having the real time data be subject to disappearing without any notice.

This was noticeable when Dexcom’s cloud service was unavailable for four days in 2019 and disrupted multiple apps in addition to the Dexcom Follow app.

Quin’s solution

Quin does not believe that we own your health data.

Along with the NHS and other health services, we are pushing for your data to belong to you. This will give you the freedom to use your blood sugar data with any diabetes app that you want. This will also push the CGM manufacturers to improve their apps as they have added competition. 

 

What can you do?

 

There are thousands of diabetes apps available for smartphones. The next time you think about trying a new one, have a quick look at the description to see if they have solved the 4 problems above. If not, it might just be a new look on the same app you’ve deleted before. 

If you would like to try something truly different, download the Quin app

 

References

https://diatribe.org/42factors

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6407478/

https://digital.nhs.uk/data-and-information/publications/statistical/national-diabetes-audit/report-1–care-processes-and-treatment-targets-2018-19-short-report

 

 

Enjoyed this post? Click here to read 7 reasons why you’ll love the Quin app.

Barry Rogers
Barry Rogers
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