Diabetes: For some misery, for others an opportunity

What do they say – one man’s trash is another man’s gold! A growing number of startups are looking at the growing incidence of diabetes as an opportunity to take a fresh approach and reinvent how diabetes patients manage and better co-exist with the disease on a daily basis.

One such startup, Palo Alto-based Glooko today announced that it has received $3.5 million in Series A funding from a group of investors led by The Social+Capital Partnership, a investment firm started by former Facebook executive, Chamath Palihapitiya. Well known Silicon Valley veterans such as Bill Campbell, Google’s Vint Cerf, and Cisco co-founder Judy Estrin are also investors in the company which has previously raised $1 million in seed funding.

Glooko has developed a MeterSync ($40) cable that plugs into most standard self-monitoring blood glucose meters and the Glooko Logbook app for iOS devices that automatically creates a digital logbook of readings, allows users to review daily blood sugar levels, annotate them and share the results with their physician.

Yogen Dalal, Glooko co-founder and chairman explained to GigaOM that the company is going to use the new funds to focus on supporting more meters and develop an Android app in addition to getting more attention in the market place for its offerings. Glooko is not the only company that is seeking to make a mark in the digital health device business. At the Consumer Electronics Show (CES 2012) there was a noticeable increase in the number of digital health devices.

A growing, global problem

According to the Mayo Clinic, diabetes is a group of diseases that impact how our body uses blood sugar. If you have diabetes, you would have too much glucose (sugar) in your blood and this leads to many complications and serious health problems.  It is one of the fastest spreading diseases in the world.

According to American Diabetes Association (ADA) nearly 25.8 million children and adults in the United States of America who are suffering from diabetes. (More stats here at the ADA website.) The situation is equally worse around the world. According to the Harvard School of Public Health, there are 350 million diabetics around the world.

What you need to know

Those statistics might be numbers for you, but for me it is a fact of life. I am one of those millions who have been afflicted by this disease. I have learned to live with it – and medication is only part of the solution. The key to keeping diabetes under check is to exercise, being careful about food intake and most importantly one has to constantly monitor sugar levels. If I don’t, then in a few years it is pretty clear that more serious complications can arise.

How do I keep on top of things? Using a mix of analog and digital solutions. Every time I tested my blood sugar level, I wrote down the reading in a little black book and also in BloodSugar, an iPhone app. I jot down what I eat and when I eat. I monitor my weight on a weekly basis. And at the end of the month, I enter all the data into an excel spreadsheet, which I share with my doctor whenever I see him. This is a painful and arduous process, but I am betting that one (or more) of these new startups will figure out a way to make my life easy.

For instance, Glooko is making it easy for me to take the daily measurement data right out of my diabetes monitor and making it available via their iPhone app and cable. Just like Glooko, I am excited about the upcoming smart logbook app from MySugr, a company based in Vienna, Austria.

The fact that MySugr co-founders Frank Westermann and Frederik Debong are both diabetics is one of the reasons why I feel that they have a proper understanding of the emotional realities of living with the disease. The company has developed a smart logbook (still in alpha) that uses game-mechanics to keep diabetics motivated in taking better care of themselves.

Glooko and MySugr are by no means the only startups. There are many more out there who are working on ways to deal with this growing epidemic. As someone who lives with the reality of diabetes, I can only but welcome your efforts.