Blood glucose monitors are growing up, and it's about time. With some 26 million diabetics in the U.S. alone, (that's almost 1 in 10 Americans), and hundreds of millions globally, according to the American Diabetes Association, glucose monitoring has become one of the largest patient-generated data sets in the world -- and yet much of that data is being uploaded manually onto desktops or written by hand into little log books.
In 2013, that just isn't good enough. So iHealth Lab out of Mountain View, Calif., is announcing Wednesday the release of its FDA-approved Wireless Smart Gluco-Monitoring System -- a portable Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitor that allows people to take a reading and have the results sync automatically to their iOS or Android device and stored in the cloud. From there they can track their measurements and share the results with their health care providers. (The device was unveiled at CES in January but recently received approval from the FDA.)
"It's really hard to make products that are serious in nature yet approachable, with an intimate attachment," says Adam Lin, president of iHealth Lab. "One of the things we got when we did user tests, some of the reactions we got from some patients [was], 'Yeah, I love this thing,' and it's hard to get that with a medical device. How do you love your glucose monitor?"
The device, which will be available at Best Buy stores nationwide and on Best Buy's and iHealth Lab's Web sites for $79.95, is small, sleek, and not at all flashy. After charging the device and downloading the free companion iHealth Gluco-Smart App, the initial set-up takes a few minutes and the whole kit comes in a small case with little compartments for easy storage.
The set-up also comes with 50 test strips, and through the app (for iPhone, iPad, iPod touch and Android devices) users can not only track trends but set up reminders to take medications as well as track test strip expiration dates without any counting or coding involved.
The glucose monitor joins iHealth Lab's suite of heart-related mobile health devices that are all connected through the cloud -- including blood pressure monitors, wireless scales, and wireless activity and sleep trackers. Lin hints that the company is already exploring ways to integrate some of these functions into one device.
"One thing we try to look at on the tech side is how to integrate various vitals together," said Lin, for whom the products are personal. (His father died of heart disease 15 years ago, and he and his brother were told they were prime targets.) "So on the one hand, these devices are great, they look beautiful, you should have all five. Well in 2013, you might tolerate that, but in 2015, you may say, 'Hey, I think two or three of these things should be in one.' We're certainly thinking about that because in the end we think about the user."
The iHealth glucose monitor joins an elite little group of wireless blood glucose monitors that sync to mobile devices. Biomedtric's ditto Glucose Data System was released last week to connect existing glucose monitors to smartphones, while a similar system called Glooko, which connects existing monitors to iPhones with a cable, launched an Android-compatible version yesterday.