14 Gadgets and Mobile Apps That Empower Patients With Diabetes

Emerging (and increasingly unobtrusive) technology is making it easier for people with diabetes to control insulin, plan healthy meals and manage other aspects of their condition.

14 Gadgets and Mobile Apps That Empower Patients With Diabetes

Diabetes comes in many forms and affects patients of all ages. It's also affecting more people every year. In 2011, the number of Americans with diabetes stood at nearly 21 million, more than triple the total in 1980.

Luckily, emerging technology makes it easier than ever for patients to take control of their diabetes. The gadgets and mobile apps featured here empower patients to be active participants in diabetes self-management and provide helpful ways to look at their glucose levels and share this information with members of their healthcare team.

Dr. Joseph Kim is the president of MCM Education, a publishing company that provides continuing education for physicians, nurses and pharmacists, and the founder of MedicineandTechnology.com, MedicalSmartphones.com and MobileHealthComputing.com.

iBGStar iPhone Glucose Meter
iBGStar iPhone Glucose Meter

Patients with diabetes need to check blood sugar levels on a regular basis. The iBGStar is the first glucose meter that attaches directly to the bottom of an iPhone or iPod touch. (Prices vary but start at $49.99.) The device also works with an official Apple Lightning to 30-pin adapter cable. The iBGStar Diabetes Manager mobile app for iOS also lets patients track and share glucose levels and trends.

GoMeals
GoMeals

The GoMeals mobile app by Sanofi helps patients with diabetes make healthy lifestyle choices at home or on the go. Free and available for iOS and Android devices, GoMeals includes tools for eating healthy, staying active and tracking your blood glucose levels. The Restaurant Locator lets you browse restaurant menus and see nutritional information on thousands of food choices. You can create a free GoMeals account to back up your history and favorite foods to the cloud and access them on any mobile device or computer.

Medical ID iPhone Case
Medical ID iPhone Case

Many people with a serious medical condition or allergy wear a medical identification bracelet, which helps paramedics deliver necessary treatment more quickly and efficiently in an emergency. How about a medical ID iPhone case? This one made by Zazzle ($41.10) clearly identifies that you have Type 1 diabetes. Using this case could lead to faster diabetes first aid if you ever require it.

Insulin Pumps with CGM
Insulin Pumps with CGM

Some patients with diabetes who use insulin pumps also require the use of a continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) device. These small monitors stick like a patch on the skin and wirelessly transmit blood glucose data to an insulin pump that's usually worn on the waist. The insulin pump receives the blood glucose information and stores that on the device. When glucose levels near limits, alerts inform the patient about those numbers. Examples include the Medtronic MiniMed Paradigm Revel Insulin Pump with CGM or the Animas Vibe Insulin Pump and CGM System. (Contact vendors for pricing information.)

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mySentry Remote Glucose Monitor
mySentry Remote Glucose Monitor

The Medtronic MiniMed mySentry, the first remote glucose monitor approved by the Food and Drug Administration, is designed for patients already wearing a wireless skin sensor for continuous glucose monitoring. The mySentry receives wireless signals from the skin sensor and displays glucose levels on its screen. For parents or other caregivers of children with diabetes, mySentry can be programmed to deliver audible and visible alerts when nighttime glucose levels get too low. Once levels return to normal, parents can rest easy. (Contact vendor for pricing information.)

Telcare Cellular-Enabled Blood Glucose Meter
Telcare Cellular-Enabled Blood Glucose Meter

Telcare offers a wireless glucose meter that automatically uploads results online through cellular networks. This means patients don't have to wrestle with Wi-Fi connections, Bluetooth pairing, or USB ports to send their blood glucose readings to their healthcare provider. The meter is sold for $149, but health insurance plans may cover a portion of the cost. Telcare provides wireless connectivity for free. In addition, patients and caregivers using the vendor's free Diabetes Pal blood glucose manager mobile app can view those glucose results on an iPhone or Android device.

The Glooko ecosystem makes it easy to track your blood glucose levels on a mobile device. First, get the free Glooko app for iOS device. (It's coming soon to Android.) Then, purchase the Glooko MeterSync Cable ($39.95) that attaches to a wide range of standard, FDA-approved glucose meters and lets you upload glucose readings to the Glooko mobile app. An adapter to Accu-Chek meters is available for $14.95.

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Glucose Buddy
Glucose Buddy

Glucose Buddy is a free iOS app that lets patients with diabetes store information such as glucose numbers, carbohydrate consumption, insulin dosages and physical activities and view the data on a free online account. Access to graphs and charts displaying glucose level trends can help patients with diabetes better manage their condition. The app also integrates with the iOS app CalorieTrack ($2.99) to let you log food and exercise information.

More: 10 Best iPhone Apps for Healthy Living

MedFolio Electronic Pillbox
MedFolio Electronic Pillbox

Patients with Type 2 diabetes often require multiple medications. Some of these pills need to be taken several times each day, so medication management and adherence can be a significant challenge. Digital pillboxes that trigger alerts and reminders can be especially useful for managing multiple medication regimens. The MedFolio Electronic Pillbox ($248) helps patients through the use of audio/visual reminders, email or text message reminders. Upon opening the box, patients can also be reminded of the names of each pill that they need to take.

Insight Foot Care Scale
Insight Foot Care Scale

Patients with diabetes are at risk of developing foot problems such as nerve damage, cracked skin, calluses, foot ulcers and circulation. Untreated, these can lead to infection or even amputation. In addition to weighing patients, the Insight Foot Care Scale uses an angled, illuminated mirror to help them see the bottom of their feet. When cuts and scrapes are detected early, they can be treated more effectively. (Contact vendor for pricing.)

OmniPod
OmniPod

Most insulin pumps use tubes and generally aren't waterproof. The OmniPod call itself the world's first tubing-free insulin pump, which means there's no tubing to snag, tangle or plan your wardrobe around. It also happens to be waterproof, so you can swim or bathe while wearing it. The wireless Pod, which contains a patient's insulin, sticks to the skin and stays attached for up to three days. The Personal Diabetes Manager, meanwhile, wirelessly controls the Pod and delivers the appropriate doses of insulin. (Contact vendor for pricing; a free demo kit is available.)

iCookbook Diabetic
iCookbook Diabetic

Looking for healthy alternatives to regular meals? Substitutions or other changes to an otherwise standard recipe can lead to a better meal that can help patients with diabetes eat healthier. The free iCookbook Diabetic iOS app by Publications International provides recipes and cooking tips from registered dieticians and food experts. The recipes include nutrition information and tips for preparing the meal. You can personalize the recipes and even add your own. Every month, the app also provides a featured recipe for you to try.

NovoPen Echo
NovoPen Echo

Novo Nordisk introduced the first insulin pen in 1985. The device was originally designed to be disposable and easy to use for adults with diabetes who may have difficulty filling syringes and manipulating small vials of insulin. The company's NovoPen Echo, meanwhile, has been designed specifically for children. The pen combines digital memory functionality, which records the dose and time since the last insulin injection, and half-unit dosing option, which allows the pen to provide more accurate insulin doses. (Contact vendor for pricing.)

Diabetes Nutrition & Diet Tracker
Diabetes Nutrition & Diet Tracker

That camera on your smartphone is also a barcode scanner. Use it with the Diabetes Nutrition & Diet Tracker ($3.99) from Fooducate to scan your food at the grocery store. This iOS app will then give your groceries a nutrition grade of A, B, C, or D using an algorithm developed by scientists, dietitians and parents. The app also explains what's inside each product, offers healthier alternatives and helps you plan meals in order to better manage your diabetes. There's also an exercise tracker.

Related: iPhone Fitness Apps for a Healthy Heart