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Medical device maker Dexcom has been showing off iPhone and Apple Watch integration for its implantable diabetes glucose monitors for the past few weeks. The app will display glucose readings on iOS devices and should be ready when Apple Watch is launched in April, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The Dexcom Apple Watch app, medical device experts say, is made possible by recent Food and Drug Administration policy changes that suggest the federal agency will only regulate medical hardware, and not the apps that connect it to consumer platforms like iOS and Android. The exact scenario of glucose monitoring for people with diabetes was discussed when Apple quietly met with FDA officials to discuss the possibility of Apple Watch triggering federal regulation.
People with diabetes and their loved ones want the kind of features that Dexcom’s iOS app promises. In fact, Dexcom’s app was preceded by NightScout, a open-source, not-for-profit, and unregulated set of tools created as a labor of love by software engineers around the world. NightScout takes readings from Dexcom glucose monitors, uploads them to the internet, and can display them on devices like the Pebble smartwatch.
Dexcom’s demos have only shown its Apple Watch app displaying glucose readings. There might be other features included, including alarms and calibration, but those haven’t been revealed yet.
The opportunity for Apple and device makers like Dexcom in mobile health is huge. Credit Suisse estimates there are 400 million people worldwide with Type II diabetes, with associated costs totaling up to $376 billion per year. If hospitals and patients are already spending thousands of dollars a year managing the condition, and a $350 Apple Watch and $650 iPhone can make their lives markedly better, then it becomes an easy purchase. If doctors start choosing devices based on whether they work with iOS, that could prompt other manufacturers to support iOS and HealthKit, which would lead to more health-conscious consumers choosing Apple.
Dexcom’s glucose monitors come in the form of a wearable patch called a continuous glucose monitor. Currently, diabetes patients need to carry around a pager-like device to read glucose levels, but the new apps will allow users to ditch the glucose sensor reader for the smartphone they already likely carry.