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Managing Diabetes with Technology | Altru

Managing Diabetes with Technology | Altru

Diabetes technology has grown significantly in the last decade, greatly improving diabetes control for those with type 1, type 2 and gestational (diabetes of pregnancy) diabetes. These technologies include apps and personal devices, such as smartphones and smart watches, for general health monitoring. Specific to diabetes, Continuous Glucose Monitoring (CGM), smart insulin pens, smart meters and insulin pumps have advanced greatly. Here at the Altru Diabetes Center, we have embraced the use of these technologies to improve quality of life for persons with diabetes.

Common Technologies in Diabetes CareDr. Johnson holding a diabetes technology device in a patient room.

  • Smart Meters - Many common fingerstick blood glucose monitors offer memory features for blood glucose values, sick days and activity. These monitors have data that can be downloaded to review with your provider. Other more advanced devices offer, for a fee, additional health coaching based on your data.

  • Smart Pens - If you’re on insulin, you are probably already using an insulin pen for easy injection. Smart pens take that one step further, with memory features similar to smart meters. These can be good options for those who want more than a regular pen but maybe aren’t ready for an insulin pump.

  • Continuous Glucose Monitors (CGMs) - Right now, there is a lot of excitement around CGMs. Since the mid-2000s, Altru has been using these devices in the clinic, and some Altru patients with diabetes have been using these personal devices at home. You have probably seen marketing for the commonly used CGMs in use: the Medtronic Guardian 3, Dexcom 6 and the Freestyle Libre series. Basically, these have a small filament placed below the skin; this sensor is connected to a transmitter that records a blood sugar every 5 minutes, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for up to 2 weeks. This data can be reviewed on a scanner that comes with the device, a paired smartphone or paired insulin pump. All this data can be viewed on a computer which can be very valuable in making decisions with your provider about exercise, food intake and medication changes. This data can reveal patterns of blood sugar that may be hard to capture with a few fingersticks daily.

  • Insulin Pumps - Pumps are an advanced technology system for insulin delivery for those who have been on multiple daily injections of insulin. Although they have been around since the 1970s, they have really advanced in the last 10-15 years. More recently, insulin pumps now pair with a CGM for semi-automated control of the pump’s insulin delivery for what is called Automated Insulin Delivery (AID). The CGM actually “tells” the pump what to do with insulin delivery; the person using the device has to prompt the pump when a meal or snack is ingested, but virtually all other insulin delivery is directed by the CGM. Most patients see improve blood glucose control and A1C levels, with less hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). All data from the pump and CGM can be viewed by you and your provider to make treatment decisions.

Diabetes Management Next Steps

At the Altru Diabetes Center, we are up-to-date on all current diabetes technology and telehealth. As experienced diabetes providers, we can help you learn and use diabetes technology to improve your diabetes care and quality of life.

Call 701.780.6400 or visit the Diabetes Center.

About the Author

Eric L. Johnson, M.D., is the assistant medical director of the Altru Diabetes Center and a professor at the University of North Dakota School of Medicine and Health Sciences. As a family medicine physician specializing in diabetes care, he helped co-found the Altru Diabetes Center in 1998. Dr. Johnson is passionate about diabetes care as he has type 1 diabetes and has a great interest in the use of technology in treating persons with diabetes. Dr. Johnson has been with Altru for 30 years and serves on the American Diabetes Association (ADA) Professional Practice Committee, which writes the annual ADA guidelines.