Monitor Your Glucose With the Apple Watch
By Tracey NeithercottApril 2015
With the launch of its first smart watch, Apple is hoping the next time you glance at your wrist it’ll be to do a lot more than check the time. Among the things you can now do on a wristwatch: make calls, receive messages, send texts, listen to music, and count the steps you take. For certain people with diabetes, the biggest innovation may be a single app: Dexcom’s Share2, which displays glucose data on the watch.
The Apple Watch’s continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) app is a milestone for more than Dexcom, says Kevin Sayer, the company’s chief executive officer. He’s hoping the app’s availability on the watch will make diabetes more mainstream—and show the tech community that people with diabetes are eager to embrace advances in diabetes technology. “For me, glucose on a watch makes all the sense in the world,” he says.
Here’s how it works: A Dexcom sensor with a hair-thin wire is placed just under the skin. A transmitter clips to it and sends glucose data via Bluetooth to the Dexcom CGM receiver, which then passes the information to an iPhone. From there, the data is sent to the watch through the Share2 app. (More on the Dexcom G4 Platinum CGM system, seen below with the iPhone and Apple Watch glucose-tracking apps, here.)
Users can view their own glucose trends and graphs as well as share glucose information with friends and family. (Those people can view glucose data through Dexcom’s Follow app, available on both the iPhone and Apple Watch.)
“The sharing of data is going to be even more important in the future,” says Sayer. It serves as a security blanket of sorts, and it’s not just parents who benefit. Spouses can know from afar when their partner’s glucose plummets, and caregivers can keep an eye on older adults who may need help with day-to-day diabetes management. “By giving people the opportunity of a watch, we give people even more information,” Sayer says.
But don’t assume you can ditch your extra devices just yet. You’ll still need an iPhone for the watch to work (it must be within range at all times for many watch functions), and you’ll need a Dexcom CGM receiver for glucose data to transmit. That, Sayer hopes, is temporary.
Dexcom is currently working on its fifth generation system, which will allow users to leave their CGM receiver at home. The transmitter will send glucose data directly to a user’s iPhone.
“We’re purposefully doing this in steps so we could get our products approved for our patients,” says Sayer. He sees a more streamlined lifestyle for people with diabetes in the future.
And Dexcom’s watch display apps are an important milestone: While users still need to keep those extra devices nearby, checking an Apple Watch app is a less conspicuous way to monitor blood glucose than looking at a handheld receiver. “People with diabetes want to live the life they want to live. They want to be more mainstream,” says Sayer. “They don’t want to be pulling out a ton of devices.”