How to Use Mobile Technology to Manage Diabetes
Mobile technology has revolutionized virtually every aspect of modern life, including the ways in which we manage our physical and mental health, search for and find health information, and even access healthcare. From online patient portals to mobile applications, technology has truly transformed modern healthcare, allowing for huge improvements in quality of patient care, reduced care healthcare costs, and making healthcare more accessible to a larger number of people.
Mobile health technology has been highly beneficial for people with chronic conditions, and is especially useful for people who have diabetes. More than 100 million Americans have been diagnosed with diabetes or prediabetes, and any type of technology that can change the way we manage and treat this condition can have a huge impact on the lives of millions of people. Between tracking blood sugar, meals, exercise, and medications, people with diabetes must record and manage an abundance of important information related to their condition.
All of this information can be tracked with pen and paper, but mobile health technology has simplified, enhanced, and improved this process. This guide from the online Health Informatics program at the University of Illinois, Chicago will explain what types of mobile technology have transformed healthcare, how it has changed diabetes management, and will discuss different mobile applications that you can use to better manage your own condition.
What Is Mobile Health Technology?
In this context, mobile health (mHealth) technology refers to any piece of technology that can be kept on your person and used for health or healthcare purposes. This includes, though is certainly not limited to, mobile applications, certain medical devices, wearable fitness technology, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
Commonly, these different devices and technologies can be connected to each other, allowing them to share patient data directly with healthcare professionals. This connectivity benefits not only individual patients and improves their care, but it also impacts how health records are kept and accessed by physicians and researchers. Integrating mHealth technology into patients’ daily lives contributes new data, in new ways, to healthcare research that can be used to make new discoveries.
In recent years, there have been significant advancements in the realm of mobile health technology, and these innovations have had a huge effect on our daily lives. Experts believe we are currently in a new era of emerging mHealth technologies, making huge strides for better health outcomes for more people. As more people adopt mobile health technology and it becomes more ingrained into our society, it will likely have an even greater impact on our daily lives.
How Has Mobile Technology Changed Healthcare?
As mentioned above, mobile technology has had a particularly meaningful effect on the healthcare industry and how we engage with it. There are three primary ways in which mobile technology has changed healthcare:
- You can now monitor your own health, at home, using mobile devices in ways that weren’t possible 10 or even five years ago. You can do so throughout the entire course of your day, providing yourself — and your healthcare providers — with a better, more comprehensive picture of your health.
- Mobile technology allows you to communicate quickly and efficiently with your healthcare providers. You can even have virtual visits if you are unable to leave the house or if it’s more convenient, and your different healthcare providers can more easily share your information with each other, which can improve the quality of your care.
- Wearable technology, in particular, is changing how we manage health information. Because it’s easier to create and share more data with wearable tech, healthcare professionals now have access to more patient information than ever before. Not only does all of this data help improve care, but it also supports new research and helps advance the entire future of the healthcare field. Providers can use the information gathered by mobile devices to crowd-source data collection among specific health populations, such as patients with diabetes, and look for larger patterns that could advance treatments or discover cures.
And this is only the beginning. Mobile health technology will likely only grow more important as we research different ways it can be employed in different healthcare settings. This means that more experts will be needed to support these solutions, and that more people with training in health informatics will have the opportunity to explore and determine innovative ways to effectively bring technology and patient care together.
Mobile healthcare apps are becoming more common in the modern age and are being used for a wider variety of purposes, including weight loss, improving mental health, and creating better sleep habits. There are even a number of different mobile health apps specifically designed to help people better manage diabetes. Many of these apps can be used in conjunction with your phone, smartwatch, or other mobile technology to assist and streamline your own treatment and share your personal health data with medical professionals.
We have broken these various mobile diabetes applications into several different categories based on their functions: blood sugar tracking, medication reminders, general nutrition and diet, fitness and physical activity tracking, menstruation tracking, and anxiety and stress management apps. Some of these apps can be useful even if you don’t have diabetes, while others are specifically geared towards helping people manage and treat this condition.
Some of the best general diabetes management apps include:
- Beat Diabetes: If you have been recently diagnosed with diabetes, this is a great app to start out with. It provides basic, introductory information that you need to know, such as which foods to avoid, tips on how to control your blood sugar, and a timeline of diabetes complications. This free app is only available for Android.
- BG Monitor Diabetes: This free app is available only for Android, but it allows you to track all the information you choose to — such as your blood glucose, insulin, and carbohydrate intake — and will even analyze the data for you. It will then identify noteworthy trends and let you know if you need to make any adjustments to your daily habits. It also lets you share your data directly with others, including loved ones and physicians.
- BlueStar Diabetes: This free app offers coaching to help you meet your different diabetes health goals, helps you organize and reminds you to take your various medications, and pairs with other healthcare technologies, like heart rate monitors, so you can keep track of everything in one place. You can even ask questions to certified diabetes experts. This app is available for both Android and Apple
- Diabetes Connect: This customizable app allows you to track a variety of different elements, including your weight, blood sugar, insulin injections, medications, and meals. You can turn off different features to best suit your needs; you can also sync your data across multiple devices and export it to share with others. This free app is available both for Android and Apple
- Diabetes:M: This free diabetes logging app is a hub for many useful features, including nutritional logs, test time reminders, blood sugar trend maps, and an insulin bolus calculator. It analyzes your data and creates detailed reports, so you can easily track trends and patterns related to your health, and even allows you to email them to your physician directly from the app. It’s available on both Android and Apple
- Diabetes Tracker by MyNetDiary: Available for both Apple and Android devices, this app is well-suited for people with either diabetes or prediabetes. It allows you to log and track a variety of different things, including your meals, exercise, and blood sugar. It’s designed to help you “understand and control all aspects of diabetes.” This app costs $9.99 to purchase.
Blood Sugar Logging Apps
People with diabetes need to keep track of their blood sugar on a regular basis in order to manage their condition effectively. If you have diabetes, you’re likely all-too-familiar with the dangers of low or high blood sugar; generally, you want your blood sugar to fall between 70 and 130 milligrams/deciliter. If it either gets too low or too high, you run the risk of suffering serious complications.
Monitoring your blood sugar truly is one of the most important parts of managing your condition. In a clinical setting, these tests would have to be performed by a professional, with a background in applied health science or medicine. However, it’s inconvenient to spend all of your time in a lab, and new mobile health apps can help you do it more effectively. In addition to reading your blood sugar levels, many of them can also integrate with other apps or fitness technologies, store your long-term data, and make it easy to share your information with your loved ones or physicians.
Some of the most popular blood sugar logging apps include:
- BeatO: This free app pairs with the BeatO glucometer, a device that allows your smartphone to read the concentration of glucose in your blood. If you use another glucometer, you can still manually log your glucose levels. It also sends reminders when your levels are abnormal. This app is available both for Apple and Android
- Glucose Buddy: Only available for Apple devices, this free app connects to Dexcom glucometer to track your blood sugar. You can also log all of your levels manually. This app also tracks your steps, exercise levels, and meals.
- Health2Sync: This free app helps you track your blood glucose levels, and shows your recent history in an easy-to-read, color-coded distribution to show which readings were at, above, and below healthy levels. You can also invite friends and family members to be your partner in the app, allowing them to review your data and send you words of encouragement. It is available for both Apple and Android
- mySugr: This free app will sync with your glucose monitor to automatically update and log your readings. You can also track your medications, meals, and carbohydrate intake. You can even easily send your data and charts to your doctor directly in the app. It is available for both Apple and Android
- OneTouch Reveal: This free app uses your blood glucose readings to search for long-term trends and patterns. If it continually notices an abnormality, it will send you push notifications so you can take the appropriate course of action to correct it. Your physician can even log into the app to review your history and make adjustments to your care plan. It is available for both Apple and Android
- Sugar Sense Diabetes App: This app doesn’t just help you track your blood sugar; you can also log your weight, insulin levels, carbohydrate intake, and exercise. In addition, it does HbA1C estimations. This app is free and is available for both Apple and Android
Medication Reminder Apps
Many people with diabetes have to take a variety of different medications, including insulin, to properly manage their condition. However, it can be tricky enough to remember to take one medication daily, and if you have a number of prescriptions to manage, you may struggle to remember to take each one in the correct dosage at the right time of day. While these reminder apps can be useful for anyone who has to take medication prescribed by their doctor, they can be particularly helpful for people with diabetes, as medication is critical to effectively managing this disease.
Some of the most popular medication reminder apps are:
- Care Zone Health Info Organizer: This medication management app offers regular medication reminders and a detailed list of your medications that you can share with family members or physicians. It also provides a journal, calendar, and notes so you can easily organize all of your health information. This app is free and available for both Apple and Android
- Dosecast: Available for both Apple and Android devices, this free app is designed to help you “remember to take the right drug, the right way, at the right time, every time.” It offers reliable and regular medication reminders, a flexible reminder schedule, and even customizable dose amounts and medication instructions.
- Mango Health: This app is free, simple, and easy to use. It sends reminders for all of your medications, supplements, and vitamins, and provides information about how different drugs interact with each other. You can also create “healthy habit reminders,” such as to drink water, to help you create daily health routines. It is available for both Apple and Android
- Medisafe Medication Management and Pill Reminder: This free app, available on both Apple and Android devices, allows you to make customizable reminders for each of your different medications. It also lets you know when you need to refill your prescriptions. You can even make daily and monthly medication reports to share with your physician.
- MyMeds: This free app does more than just remind you to take your medication. It also sends you prescription refill reminders, helps you understand the reason for taking your medications, and shares your health information with your healthcare professionals and loved ones. This app is available for both Apple and Android
- PillPack: In addition to daily medication reminders, this free app is a sort of online pharmacy. You can order prescription refills and track them directly in the app. You can even contact a pharmacist on the app if you have any questions or concerns. This app is only available for Apple
People with diabetes have to be careful about what foods they eat. After all, the right diet can help to keep blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels within a healthy range, which is important for symptom management. The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases recommends a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, beans, whole grains, lean proteins like chicken and turkey without the skin, fish, and non- or low-fat milk and cheese.
Luckily, there are a number of nutrition apps that can help you track your diet. Many of these apps aren’t designed exclusively for diabetes management — in fact, most of them are useful for anyone looking to take control of what they eat — but diet is such an important component of treatment that they could be highly beneficial for anyone with this condition.
- SparkPeople Calorie Tracker and Diet Tracker: This app helps you track your diet, but it also allows you to set unique dietary and health goals based on the plan you made with your diabetes team. It also syncs with a variety of wearable fitness trackers, provides video exercise demonstrations, and has a meal-planning function. This app is free and is available for both Apple and Android
- Carb Manager: Keto Diet App: This app focuses on helping keep track of your carbohydrate intake, in addition to other macronutrients, including protein and fat, and calories. Keep in mind that this app is designed to help people follow a keto diet, which may not work for you or may contradict your current dietary needs; always be sure to follow your physician’s advice regarding your diet. This app is available for both Apple and Android
- Diabetic Diet: This free app can be used by people with either diabetes or prediabetes. It provides several diabetes-friendly dessert recipes. This app is only available for Android
- Fooducate: Not only is this app a calorie counter and diet tracker, but it also provides information regarding the quality of the food you eat. You can even track your macronutrients and log your exercise and activities. This app is free and available for both Apple and Android
- MyFitness Pal: When it comes to nutrition apps, this one does it all: calorie counting, recipe importing, restaurant logging, macronutrient tracking, and even more. You can easily customize the app to suit your dietary needs, so though it isn’t specifically for people with diabetes, the flexibility of the app makes it very useful for diabetes management. This app is free and available for both Apple and Android
- My Diet Diary Calorie Counter: This app serves as a digital diary for all of your meals and physical activity, tracking your caloric intake and macronutrient breakdowns. It connects with wearable fitness devices to help log your exercise, and even syncs with the Sugar Sense blood sugar tracking app. It is free and available for both Apple and Android
Regular exercise and safe physical activity is another critical component of diabetes management and treatment. It’s always important to talk with your doctor about how to exercise safely with diabetes, especially when it comes to activities that are highly strenuous or could exacerbate your condition. Once you have determined a fitness routine, though, it’s important to stick with it.
Most fitness and exercise apps are designed to help you do just that: log your physical activity so you actually stick to it. Whether you like to run, do yoga, or lift weights, there are a number of apps that you can use to help you stay on track:
- 7 Minute Workout: This app provides simple workouts, involving high-intensity bodyweight exercises, that last for seven minutes. Their workouts don’t require much gear, so you can easily do them anywhere. This app pairs with heart rate monitors, so you can see just how hard you’re working and ensure your heart rate is in your preferred range. This app is free and is available for both Apple and Android
- 8fit Workouts and Meal Planner: This app helps you create a personalized workout plan based on your diet and goals. It offers guidance, reminders, and suggestions to help you reach your personalized goals. You can use the app to log your diet, look at different recipes, and watch workout videos. This app is free and is available for both Apple and Android
- Endomondo: This app helps you track all of your fitness activities, including running, weightlifting, and stretching. It also incorporates a strong community aspect and allows you to interact with your friends and other users online. This free app is available for both Apple and Android
- Fitbit Coach: This free app offers a wide variety of short workout videos that you can do virtually anywhere. Most of them are bodyweight exercises and don’t require any additional gear. Naturally, this app syncs up with a Fitbit, but you can still use it without one. This app is available for both Apple and Android
- MapMyFitness: This free exercise-tracking app allows you to log hundreds of different activities, from mowing the lawn to going for a walk, in real-time. Simply load the app before you begin exercising to get live data about your activity. This app pairs with wearable fitness gear and is available on both Apple and Android
- PEAR: This fitness app offers a number of different workouts, videos, and training programs to help you meet your short- and long-term health goals. It can either be used in conjunction with a heart rate monitor or on its own. This app is free and is available for both Apple and Android devices, but can only be run on Samsung devices.
Menstruation can have a great effect on both your physical and mental health. Your cycle can also affect your blood sugar levels, which is important to be aware of if you have diabetes. The amounts of estrogen and progesterone your body produces change during your cycle, and, in the time before and during your cycle, they can cause a temporary resistance to insulin. Usually, this only lasts for a few days before dropping off completely.
Many people who menstruate and have diabetes report higher blood sugar levels right before their period, and lower levels during it. Keep in mind, though, that everyone is different, and menstruation may not have the same effect on you as it does on other people. The impact of your period on your own blood sugar levels may not even be the same from month to month.
This is why it’s so crucial to keep track of your cycle; it can have a profound, yet inconsistent effect on your blood sugar, and you need to be aware of how to change your insulin dosage or diet to cope with that effect. Some of the best period tracking apps include:
- Clue: This app helps you keep track of your menstrual cycle and its various symptoms. It will even make predictions about the date of your next period, PMS, and ovulation, and helps you spot long-term trends regarding your cycle. This free app is available for both Apple and Android
- Cycles: This app allows you to track your menstrual cycle and fertility days. It’s unique in that you can invite your partner, a family member, or physician to view your information directly in the app. This app is free and only available for Apple
- Eve by Glow: This app offers an interactive period tracker and calendar, lets you log your moods and PMS symptoms, and helps you identify patterns and trends in your cycle. They also send out daily health topics and quizzes and provide a community forum so you can discuss reproductive health with other users. This free app is available for both Apple and Android
- Flo: This is a simple and easy-to-use menstrual cycle tracking app that also provides a built-in pregnancy calendar. It pairs with wearable technology devices so you can easily import your health data into the app. This app is free, and it’s available for both Apple and Android
- MyFLO: Though anyone with a period can use it, this app is particularly useful if your periods are irregular or if you’re just starting menopause. It also provides instruction and insight to reduce, and hopefully eliminate, symptoms like cramping, moodiness, or headaches. This app costs $1.99 to purchase and is available on both Apple and Android
- Ovia: This app is technically designed to help you get pregnant, but it can also be used to keep track of your menstrual cycle, various symptoms, activity and exercise, meals, and sleep schedule. It also can be paired with wearable fitness technology and you can export your data to share with your partner or doctor. This free app is available for both Apple and Android
Anxiety and Stress Apps
Chronic conditions can be incredibly stressful and difficult to deal with, and, to make matters worse, stress can have a profound, negative impact on your physical health. Recent research has found that anxiety and depression are more common in people who have chronic conditions, such as diabetes, than in people who don’t. Further, the findings also show that anxiety and depression make it more difficult for people to control their condition, can lower their overall physical health, and can decrease their quality of life.
To keep yourself as healthy and happy as possible — and to make it easier to treat your diabetes — it’s absolutely vital to take care of your mental health. A healthy diet, regular exercise, therapy, and medication are all useful tools for maintaining your mental health, but you can also add anxiety and stress reduction apps to your toolbox. They can’t replace professional treatment, but they can help make a difference in your mood and mindset.
Popular anxiety, stress, and mindfulness apps include:
- Calm: This free mindfulness app offers guided meditations, soothing nature sounds, and bedtime stories to help you meditate, relax, and sleep. They offer shorter meditations for beginners and longer ones for seasoned experts. This app is available for both Apple and Android
- Happify: for Stress & Worry: This free app uses various activities and games to train your brain on how to combat negativity, stress, and anxiety, while nurturing positivity. The aim is to improve your mood in the short-term and build resiliency against negativity in the long-term. This app is available for both Apple and Android
- Sanvello (formerly Pacifica): This app promotes mindfulness by offering deep breathing exercises, anti-anxiety activities, a mood tracker, and soothing natural sounds. It encourages you to record your moods and triggers, so you can recognize your personal patterns and avoid things that make you upset or anxious. This app is free, and it’s available for both Apple and Android
- Personal Zen: Similar to Happify, this app also provides games and activities meant to help retrain your brain’s response to stress and anxiety. It’s useful for when you have only a few minutes or need a short break, as it is meant to easily fit into your day. This free app is available for both Apple and Android
- Pocket Yoga: This app offers a variety of different stretches, poses, and entire yoga routines that you can do at your convenience. They have a mix of different styles of yoga and provide exercises for different levels of difficulty. This app costs $2.99 and is available for both Apple and Android
- ThinkUp: Positive Affirmations: This app is meant to inspire and encourage you with affirmations, positive self-talk, and motivational messages. Its focus is to help you create a more positive mindset and therefore reach more of your goals. This free app is available for both Apple and Android
The past 20 years of advancements in mobile technology have brought unexpected but amazing results. Mobile technology hasn’t just changed healthcare; it’s in the process of transforming the entire industry. Its effects on diabetes management alone are profound, far-reaching, and extraordinary. Not only has it made treating this condition significantly easier, but mobile health technology has improved the quality of care for many people and continues to contribute to a larger body of research. As we continue to explore new facets of this technology, we can likely expect to see even more exciting applications of mobile tech in healthcare over the course of the next 20 years.