Sexy Tech and Diabetes

With CES underway showcasing the latest and greatest in consumer tech, it's only appropriate to swoon and extend a thanks to companies like Apple, Amazon, Toyota, LG, Sony and even Lego for impressing us with their endlessly entertaining, innovative as well as sexy gadgets/technologies. For those of us living with diabetes and other chronic health conditions, CES is also a reminder that we haven't achieved 'sexy' when it comes to diabetes and other condition management solutions from a usefulness, impact and excitement perspective, and still have a long ways to go.

Diagnosed 10 years ago with Type 1 diabetes in the deep south, I remember the shock that my life would never be the same and need for a single resource to help me manage the complexities of diabetes...Finding a good endocrinologist, counting carbs, checking my blood sugar before and after eating, taking insulin shots, avoiding sweets and making healthy food choices, navigating clunky medical devices, and talking with others (friends, coworkers, significant others, etc.) about my condition.

Today, I'm now living in Boston where I work at a design agency that's focused on improving people's health experiences through technology and design, and works with industry leading companies on innovative health solutions. Inspired by my personal and professional experiences with using technology, I've decided to start a blog to share my thoughts on the good and bad, and opportunities for improvement as it relates to diabetes solutions.

To kick things off, I’ve used a variety of different blood glucose monitors over the last ten years, but have yet to find one that is easy to use, engages me in my blood sugar readings, and integrates into my life to help me reach my health goals.


Thanks to a friend who works at Livongo, a diabetes management company that combines the latest technology with coaching, I got setup as a ‘beta tester’ to experience their solution first hand and get some perspective on their technology and customer journey.

This opportunity came at a critical time in my life as I was dealing with a lot of personal stress that was impacting my diabetes management that resulted in my A1C going from 6.8 to 7.4. As a longtime health and fitness fanatic who grew up in a ballet company, lives for kale salads and now runs 10+miles in the snow, this was a wakeup call that kicked off an exploration of diabetes solutions to help me get back on track.


Just before Thanksgiving, I remember getting the Livongo welcome kit in the mail with the blood glucose monitor (BGM) and charger, test strips and instruction manual. Unlike a pump or CGM that requires in-person training for setup, the Livongo setup was seamless and required minimal information from me to get started. 
It also came with a sleek black case that holds your BGM, test strips and lancets which I loved. In my experience, most diabetes cases are too big or too small with no sense of style. 

After charging the BCM meter, I went through the BGM setup process using the Livongo portal to create my health profile. There were 24 questions (this was a bit much but helpful nonetheless) to capture my diabetes story, i.e. type of diabetes, date of diagnosis, general diabetes health management, target BG thresholds, and health goals. The process was pretty straightforward and simple, and immediately synced to my meter without delay. 
I was also able to add friends and family to the meter so they could see how I was doing, and get notified when I had a high or low blood sugar.
Health Coaching

In addition to friends/family connections, Livongo also offers personalized health coaching. For me, this meant a text and or email from a certified nurse educator following a high or low blood glucose reading, and a real-time conversation on how to correct.

In the day and age of automated coaching/advisors, I have to say the real human connection/touchpoint was valuable and super attractive to me.

Like a therapist for your diabetes, you’re able to have an open and honest conversation with your health coach without judgement, and could fit it into my lifestyle on the go when I was out with friends, on a date, etc. This was fantastic.


Easy setup, a sleek case, and helpful feedback from live humans as opposed to robots certainly make Livongo a unique and attractive solution. I do see some opportunities for improvement however and if Livongo wanted to get to an Apple Health experience, I'd love to see an option in Livongo (and other diabetes company solutions) to pull in other data points like my fitness data (how far did I run today and how far do I have to go to achieve my health goals?), social activity (who am I with and what am I doing?), as well as mood (am I having a crappy or great day?) as these are all factors that attribute to my diabetes story and overall management.

I'm appreciative of the opportunity to try out Livongo and look forward to their evolution. I'm also curious to see what's in store for diabetes tech at this year's CES!


By: Ashley Boyd

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