Diabetics have long had to endure needle pricks and blood tests to ensure that their disease is under control. But in these last few months, more and more devices are coming on the market that will not only do the test for you but transmit the readings right back to your doctor, according to a story by Walter S. Mossberg at the Wall Street Journal.
Mossberg writes that next week, a small start-up will introduce a new diabetes meter it coins as the first meter with wireless technology that” instantly transmits a patient's readings to a private online database, which can be accessed by the patient or—with permission—by a doctor, caregiver or family member.” This system can help both patients and doctors highlight trends and spot problems, and can be accessed via a Web browser or an iPhone app, automatically allowing doctors to respond.
The new meter and service is called Telcare (News - Alert) and is from a Bethesda, Md., company also named Telcare. Mossberg, who notes that he is a Type 2 diabetic, has tried the device and despite some drawbacks such as a high price, he recommends that the Telcare be considered by diabetics “who want a better substitute for paper logs, or would benefit from real-time sharing of their readings.”
He recommends, however, that patients check with their doctors before switching meters. To use the meter, Mossberg says, simply “insert a test strip into a slot on the meter, then prick your finger with a lancing device to get a drop of blood, touch the strip to the drop, and wait for the reading to appear.”
Other companies offer similar devices.
The Telcare meter immediately sends results to its online database, “where you or your doctor can find it via the password-protected website or iPhone (News - Alert) app,” Mossberg writes. Since the transmission is accomplished using a built-in cellular modem, the service does not involve any cellphone, carrier contract or fee.
That cellular connection is used to send you messages about your readings, if necessary. In this first version, the patient can't reply to doctors' messages from the meter, but that's planned for the future.
Telcare’s meter is an example of machine-to-machine (M2M) communications, which “connect consumers – the chronically ill, aging or those who just want to improve overall wellness – with easy-to-use medical applications.” M2M simply means one device (other than a cell phone) talking to another.
One drawback, however, Mossberg notes, is the price. “While many diabetes meters cost well under $50, or are free (the money is in the test strips), the Telcare meter costs $150 for a starter kit that includes the meter, a wall charger, a case and accessories,” he writes.
Another negative is battery life. Traditional meters use removable batteries that can last months. The Telcare has a sealed battery and must be recharged frequently, like a cellphone, Mossberg reports.
The device is currently available only through the company, but should be sold in drugstores soon.
Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is an award-winning health and technology writer who has worked for newspapers, magazines and IBM (News - Alert) in her 20-year career. To read more of her articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Carrie Schmelkin