Diabetic online forums drive for change

Jamie Bate is part of an online community using technology to improve the life of diabetics.
PHOTO: MARTIN DE RUYTER/ FAIRFAX NZ

Jamie Bate is part of an online community using technology to improve the life of diabetics.

Online communities are "pushing boundaries" to help insulin dependent diabetics lead simpler lives.

People with diabetes are constantly being promised new technology by big companies to assist in limiting diabetes complications, and to some, it feels like it's always just out of reach.

Nelson diabetic and founding team member of a healthcare start-up, Jamie Bate, said communities formed online because diabetics were "sick of waiting" for things to improve when they can already make a change themselves.

He said there was still hope medical companies will come out with new and improved technology, "but they're over their time periods".

Most diabetics use an injection pen to deliver insulin and a blood glucose monitor with a finger pricker to test blood sugar.

Some diabetics choose to have these two devices in the form of an insulin pump and a continual glucose monitor (CGM), which are permanently attached to the body but need to be moved to a different location every few days.  

It's the latter system which these tech-savvy communities are working on to link together. 

There is currently nothing on the market that allows the external insulin pump and CGM to communicate. 

Technologically minded diabetics are designing software so the pump can adjust the insulin released according to what the blood sugar is doing. 

Through online forums, they have developed a way for the insulin pump and CGM to automatically talk to each other. This allows the pump to read the blood sugar every five minutes and adjust the insulin released according to blood sugar levels. 

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Bate said it was about people managing the software and doing it themselves rather than making something that will be marketed.

"With a community of people out there doing these things, it also helps push the industry to hopefully move quicker. That's a really big part of it."

In a person with type 1 diabetes, their pancreas no longer produces insulin, the hormone which is released when you eat. Insulin keeps blood sugar levels between 4mmol/L to 7mmol/L, an optimal level for day to day functioning.

Not to be confused with Type 2 diabetes, Type 1 diabetics can be diagnosed at any stage of life, any fitness level and any weight and through no fault of their own, suddenly find themselves living with needles and regulated eating.

It's a prickly life, but it can be a healthy one. 

Hundreds of people worldwide have joined forums and sites including Nightscout (a CGM in the Cloud) and closed-loop systems. These allow people to share ideas and collaborate.

Bate has been working on advanced technology to link his pump and CGM over the last couple of months, getting parts from Ebay and some supplies gifted by work colleagues.

He hoped to have the system "up and running" before the end of October.

As well as getting the medical industry to hasten in their technological advancements, Bate just wants an undisturbed sleep without suffering low or high blood sugars.

"If I can get my overnight blood sugars good so I can ... have a good night's sleep ... that's all I want to achieve 'cos that would make such a difference to my life."

 

 

 

 

 - Stuff

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