Health Tools: Manage Your Blood Sugars Online
Here’s something I always like to tell my patients: If you want your car fixed, you take the car to the mechanic. If you want to improve your diabetes treatment and care, you bring your blood sugars to your appointment.
Before my patients arrive for their checkups, I always remind them of three key things to do before setting foot in the clinic: Track their blood sugars at home, bring their sugar log to the appointment, and understand what those numbers mean.
Unfortunately, many patients are checking their blood sugars, but forget to bring their sugar logs to their appointment. Most of the time, the log is sitting in the car or on the kitchen counter. Other times, a patient will rely on meter downloads. However, problems with the software are common. One patient of mine checks her blood sugar six to seven times per day on her glucose meter, but several nurses struggled to download the information on the day of her appointment. The patient was able to tell me each reading one by one, but because I couldn’t see a timeline of how her sugars changed throughout the day, I wasn’t able to help her get the treatment she needed.
As a doctor, it is very difficult for me to see these incidents happen. Discussing a patient’s blood sugar levels is the main way I can provide treatment advice. Without an accurate log, I’m not able to help patients pinpoint their problem areas, which means I can’t provide the treatment options best suited for them.
To help ensure a quality checkup for all my patients, I recommend they find their own ways to keep tabs on their blood sugar. For some, this simply means creating an organized, handwritten chart that allows them to write their glucose levels before and after meals and at bedtime. I also recommend patients use an online log, especially as a backup, in case their first log gets misplaced or forgotten before the appointment.
Recently, one of my patients had done just that. She had worked hard for months to keep an accurate sugar log, but she forgot her papers in the car on the day of her appointment. Fortunately, she kept a second log online at My Diabetes Home. She logged into her account and was able to show me her information very quickly. I could then provide her with the guidance she needed to understand her sugars so that she could improve them.
I’ve seen a remarkable difference between the patients who simply rely on downloading information from their glucose meters and the patients who track and then learn to understand their sugars with an online log. Various websites and smartphone apps allow users to store their blood glucose levels and track the changes in their sugar levels and learn to understand what the numbers mean. When patients bring their sugars to their appointment, their doctor is able to help them understand what the patterns in their sugar levels mean, so they can quickly learn how to take the right action. Numerous online tools are available to help patients keep better track of their sugars:
MyNetDiary: This popular eating and exercise tracking app has expanded to help patients with diabetes. Now, MyNetDiary users can enter their blood glucose readings into a daily log. The app also provides a food diary, so users can easily track how what they eat affects their diabetes management. (Available for and Android devices, $9.99)
iBGStar Diabetes Manager: Created for patients who use an iBGStar meter, this app allows users to download information from their meters directly onto their iPhone or iPod touch. In addition to keeping a record of glucose readings, the app also features a carbs tab where users can enter the number of carbohydrate grams they’ve eaten throughout the day. The insulin tab allows patients to record and store information about their past insulin doses. (Available for iOS devices, free)
My Diabetes Home: This website allows users to enter their blood sugar levels manually onto an online logbook. Patients can then use the website’s sugar graph tool to track how their blood sugar levels vary throughout the day. To help users pinpoint specific problem areas, My Diabetes Home also provides an easy-to-read snapshot of their highest and lowest blood sugar levels and will calculate an estimated A1C reading based on the blood sugars the user has logged online. (Available online, basic membership is free; upgrade for $19.99/year.)
Anuj Bhargava, MD, MBA, CDE, FACP, FACE, is a practicing endocrinologist at the Iowa and Diabetes Endocrinology Center in Des Moines and the founder and president of the Iowa Diabetes and Endocrinology Research Center. He is also the founder of My DiabetesHome and MedSimple medication management platform. Bhargava believes that technology can simplify diabetes and strives to develop health tools and help people use them.