Help me track.... everything
December 17, 2010 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Help a newbie diabetic export glucose monitor data to a Mac. Triple bonus points for iPad.

I'm a newly diagnosed type 1 diabetic. I just started insulin yesterday, and right now the main goal is to get my blood sugar down. (I am hugely lucky to have been diagnosed before going into DKA: my A1c is 11.5, got ketones in my pee, whole nine yards.). But obviously I am trying to plan for a lifetime of maintenance, and I need to figure out how best to keep track of my glucose numbers, what I eat, how much insulin.

I want to do this on a computer. Ideally I would be able to download data from my glucose monitor to an IPad app. Slightly less ideally, to a Mac. Least ideally, to a PC.

So, question 1: software recommendations? Needed feature: it has to be able to track insulin, not just glucose and carbs.

I've seen this question , but it's out of date. Though maybe the original author can help?

Question 2: what cable does one use??? My glucose monitor is a Freestyle Freedom Lite, made by Abbott. The user's manual and website claim it has a data port and can be used with software. The one iPad app (really iPhone, but it'll do) i've found (SI diary) claims to be compatible with it. But the "data port" looks to me like a headphone jack, and my local Best Buy staffer looked utterly puzzled and said they didn't sell anything that would connect that to USB. So how do you even get the data onto a laptop? Getting it onto an iPad obviously harder -- I figure I need that mythical connector, PLUS a USB-USB ("female" on both ends), plus the dock to USB cord that came with my iPad.

Tl;dr. Help! I don't know how to hook the monitor up to ANY computer, let alone my iPad.
posted by kestrel251 to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, you need this cable if you're going to be working with a Freestyle Freedom Lite.

Second of all, what you're looking for in terms of iPads doesn't currently exist in the US. The iBGStar will be able to download directly to an iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad and has an app for it but it's still clearing the FDA and the diary app isn't scheduled to be released until 2011.
posted by Talez at 3:46 PM on December 17, 2010

Best answer: Actually now that I realise it you said Mac so you'll actually need this cable since you'll only have USB on a Mac.
posted by Talez at 3:47 PM on December 17, 2010

It uses a custom USB cable with, yes, a standard 2.5mm headphone plug on one end and a USB Type A on the other. It's actually a USB-serial adaptor, not just a straight USB cable (I made a few device<->serial cables for Abbott meters back in the days when serial ports were still common). Talez has the actual cable covered, but it's also relatively easy to use any old USB-serial adaptor with a suitable DB-9 to 2.5mm adaptor cable.
2.5mm pin    Function
Tip          Transmit data (connects to PC Receive, DB-9 Pin 3)
Ring         Recieve Data (connects to PC Transmit, DB-9 Pin 2)
Sleeve       Signal ground (connects to DB-9 Pin 5)
I'm not aware of any non-PC software, but from the look of this the actual protocol is fairly simple.
posted by Pinback at 4:14 PM on December 17, 2010

Best answer: Unless you are married to the Freestyle Freedom Lite by your insurance, you might have better luck with a different meter. I have not personally used the Bayer Contour but it does have USB built-in, I don't know if it allows insulin and carb logging. Some of the bulkier One Touch models have built-in graphing and logging capabilities for carbs and insulin. In my case, unless I have the logging device on me at all times, it's not going to get logged when I go home to my computer. So for me cell phone, meter, or insulin pump are viable logging devices since I have them on me always.

I have used cabled meters (and insulin pumps with IR connectors), all of which were a PITA. Almost all the meters use some custom dongle which costs more than the meter itself. You should be able to get meters nearly free as they make the money on the test strips. As long as your insurance covers the test strips, change to whatever meter you like best and has the features you want -- some people want a small meter with no features, others want a bulkier PDA unit with built-in graphing.

Also consider that you probably be moving to an insulin pump once you get the hang of insulin and carb counting. Many of the pumps have wireless connections with meters and have their own data logging software (e.g. the Animas Ping).

Memail me if you want more specific info. There's a lot to grasp about T1D, and sometimes its easy to get lost in the technical minutiae of management rather than actually managing your blood glucose.
posted by benzenedream at 4:38 PM on December 17, 2010 [1 favorite]

Best answer: (I've been a type 1 diabetic for 20 years and on an insulin pump for 12. I work a lot with computers as a designer and very well recognize the importance of data management in staying healthy as a diabetic) (Looks like benzenedream and I have many of the same experiences).

You're asking the right question, but the answers are harder. I can say this: I've done pretty extensive research and I haven't found very many options that I'm satisfied with. I certainly recommend getting on an insulin pump once you're settled into being diabetic (or even sooner, basically as soon as you can), but tracking your carbs and insulin in addition to glucose levels is the first step.

First things first: don't wait to find a good app / software solution before you start tracking everything. Using a pen and paper with a printed (empty) spreadsheet can help yield impressive results. A couple years ago I switched from some software that wasn't working to an old fashioned pen and paper and, despite feeling like a Luddite, I definitely got things under better control. The most important thing to tracking results is literally spending a couple minutes at a time recording the data. Putting the brief mental energy towards writing something down (or at least punching some buttons) helps you be more aware of how things are going. You'll find that if everything is automated for you that you won't wind up having much benefit from it.

Hand written records are preferred by lots of docs, but I think that's mostly because they can hand you a logbook that is laid out the way they're used to. A familiar format allows them to visually scan the data more quickly and recognize patterns.

I've been using a version of the OneTouch Ultra Smart meter for the past 6 years and it has helped quite a bit. Their meters are reliable and accurate, and they do have software that will at least get you the data off of the meter. I test my blood, then enter my carbs if I'm eating and my insulin dose if I'm taking any - the meter stores all of it for download later. A couple years ago I got the Animas Ping pump, which has been another huge improvement. The key here is that all of the data is in the same place (on the meter) and in the same format, so you don't have to merge data together or have separate reports. Here's a link to the software. There is also an insulin pump manufacturer called Medtronic, who have just announced an upgrade to their software that will probably be a huge improvement on the state of the art. Unfortunately, I'm pretty sure you'll need to be using a Minimed insulin pump in order to take advantage of it. That upgrade is only for healthcare providers for the moment, too.

Getting a familiar format for my doc was the other thing I had to deal with. The output from the OneTouch software and just about everything else I tried was a mess, though it has gotten better over time. It is possible, however, to output all of the data as a CVS text file or into a basic excel spreadsheet. I wound up creating a custom spreadsheet where I could process the data into a more useful format, then print it out whenever I wanted to look for tends or to share with my doctor.

I haven't found any 3rd party apps or web sites that will accept data downloaded from a blood monitor. Some diabetes bloggers have started asking for more open standards for blood monitor data exports, but that'll take a while to take hold. I've been meaning to talk with some friends about writing scripts to transform the messy CSV files that my OneTouch exports into something more usable... if anyone wants to volunteer I'd be happy to share a dump of data. That would allow 3rd party apps to start working on better ways to visualize data and help identify trends...
posted by pkingdesign at 8:11 PM on December 17, 2010 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks so much, guys. This is extremely helpful.

Benzenedream: you're right about getting lost in the minutiae... I think I'm being control freaky about logging because I've just lost control over a big aspect of my life. Hey, I may have diabetes, but at least I'm self aware!
posted by kestrel251 at 7:55 PM on December 20, 2010

Response by poster: Later update: I finally got the cable, and after several calls to Abbott, got it working on my husband's PC. Gave up on the apps. But it's all a bit moot, because I'm changing tech: my new doctor (I was moving in the midst of all this...) is getting me on the pump and a CGM asap. I'm going for the minimed paradigm revel because of the software that pkdesign mentioned, as well as the fact that it's the only integrated CGM/pump. It's fast to be getting on a pump, but the doc's office is confident of insurance approval because I'm hoping to get pregnant. In fact -- cue sappy music -- my diabetes got uncovered during a fertility workup. I'm in my late 30's, and time is of the essence. (Don't worry; it's on hold until my A1c is down. I just need to get it down fast.)
posted by kestrel251 at 7:26 PM on January 23, 2011

Checked back and saw your update. Excellent idea getting on the pump, it'll be great (annoying some times, but great). Good luck!
posted by pkingdesign at 9:06 AM on February 13, 2011

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