Diabetes Forecast

Join the Information Revolution

By Paris Roach, MD, Editor-in-Chief ,

Whether you've never known life without a PC or you're like me and didn't own a computer until well into adulthood, smart phones and other advances in technology can make living with diabetes easier. Managing diabetes involves managing information. That information can be divided into two broad categories: general information that applies to everyone (like facts about diet, medications, and health maintenance) and personal information (like blood glucose monitoring data, medications, test results, and other facts that apply solely to you). Computer capability is ready and able to help navigate both landscapes.

A few seconds surfing the Web will convince anyone that in most areas of life, we're faced with "too much information." But you can narrow your search by deciding what specific information you want, and by seeking advice from experts and organizations like the American Diabetes Association (ADA) about how to find it. For example, a few keystrokes on ADA's MyFoodAdvisor site brings up detailed nutritional content of what you're about to eat—and suggests healthier alternatives, too. Whether you find it on the Web or get it already programmed into your insulin pump or other device, nutritional information is at your fingertips.

Ways to manage your personal health information are rapidly multiplying and becoming easier to use. A well-kept, handwritten logbook that includes blood glucose readings plus information about insulin doses, physical activity, food intake, and health status is still one of the best self-monitoring tools for anyone with diabetes. But this is prime territory for new technology to step in and energize the whole process. Many of you may already use the software associated with your blood glucose meter to track trends and share info with health care providers. Insulin pumpers and users of continuous glucose monitors can access even more elaborate programs to keep an eye on how they're doing and work with their docs in real time to adjust therapy. Some people with diabetes also use online services that send glucose monitoring results (among other data) to health providers and family members so that the whole team can see what's going on day to day.

The availability of all of this computing power is great, but it's worth mentioning that it comes with a risk: the desire to monitor, analyze, and generally reduce ourselves to a list of numbers. That's a desire we need to control lest we start to feel that Diabetes Big Brother is watching our every move. Yes, more information is good, but only when we can use it to make our lives better and, in the end, more human—and less technical.



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