The Future of Diabetes Management

How Center Health is trying to reshape the way we manage one of the world’s most common diseases

At the age of 14, I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. Bit of a bummer, right? Well, life goes on, and in the almost a decade since, I have come to accept the disease as an unavoidable part of my life and have strived to minimize its impact on my health.

This is not to say that the road hasn't been — and won’t continue to be — bumpy. As is the case with millions of diabetics around the world, myself included, blood glucose control is a constant struggle reliant on an almost unfathomable number of variables. Catch the flu? Expect increased volatility in your readings. Stressed? Same. Busy and forgot to inject yourself? Oops! Not eating well, sleeping well, or exercising? I'm already lost. The list goes on, but for the sake of brevity I’ll stop here.

Never mind the fact that properly managing one’s diabetes hinges on being able to analyse these blood sugar trends in conjunction with other events such as meals, injections, exercise, sleep, etc. and making adjustments to one’s treatment accordingly. Notice a regular spike around 6pm? Maybe you should increase your insulin intake during snack time at 4. Frequently hypoglycaemic? Maybe reduce your basal insulin. All of these metrics therefore need to be actively logged for analysis down the line, a painful reality exacerbated by the fact that all of this data is pretty much useless without a way of properly visualising it.

The most diligent of diabetics will solve this by rigging up an intricate system of spreadsheets and regularly pore over the data to figure out the next step. In theory, this is what we should all strive for. In practice, however, most diabetics simply don’t have the time nor the willpower to dedicate themselves to such an endeavour on a regular basis, let alone for life.

We can do better than this. (source)

Surely there must be a way for the rest of us to not only easily log our data but visualise it too? Surely there must be a way for diabetes management to play a minimal role in our day to day lives without being detrimental to our health? These are questions that I've asked myself for several years now, and I'm perplexed by the lack of viable solutions out there. Whilst I applaud the rare few startups actively trying to make life with diabetes easier, be it by focusing on ease of logging, making diabetes more engaging, or making it easier to collaborate with doctors, I can’t help but feel that these are systematically plagued by a variety of simple deal-breakers ranging from clunky interfaces to lack of mobile or desktop support and everything in between.

Bad design is more than just an eyesore, it actively impedes on one’s ability to get things done.

This is not to mention the fact that none of this functionality exists in a vacuum — it’s all good and fine to create a fantastic logging experience, but what is it worth if the way in which the data is subsequently presented isn't useful?

As a diabetic, I want to be able to log my data whenever, wherever, and as effortlessly as possible.

As a diabetic, I want to be able to keep track of my progress, and efficiently translate all of my data into actionable insights.

As a diabetic, I want to be able to get a second opinion from my doctor and family members at the drop of a hat, and easily share my progress during checkups.

As a diabetic, I want to stay motivated to manage the disease to the best of my ability.

As a computer scientist and web developer, I know that these are all possible to do, not only in and of themselves but as a unified whole. It seems to me that part of the reason nobody has managed to truly disrupt this space as of yet is precisely this lack of breadth in what they’re trying to accomplish.

The only way forward is to bring all of these features together into one cohesive, beautiful, unified solution.

So why not build it?

There are currently more than 415 million diabetics worldwide (source), and that number keeps on growing; the prospect of Center Health improving the lives of even a tiny fraction of that is unfathomably exciting!

I’d like to think that eventually, artificial pancreases will offer a sustainable “cure” for diabetes, affording us all the ability to no longer worry about the disease and instead let a small machine crunch all the numbers for us. There comes a point, however, where finding solace in such hypotheticals has to give way to actually doing something in the present, and believe me, there is so much that we can do right now.

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If you have diabetes, or know someone who does, please check out Center Health. See you soon!

Buckle up, it’s going to be an interesting ride!

— Julian

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