A Review of Sanofi's iBGStar
Blood glucose monitoring meets the iPhone/iPod touch.
By Adam Brown
The consumer marketplace has a long history of inventions that combine two or more products — things like the spork, premixed peanut butter and jelly, and the clock radio. In these cases, the combination is often greater than the sum of the parts. In diabetes, the insulin pen did this for syringes and vials, and down the road, the artificial pancreas will hopefully do this for CGM and insulin pumps. This month, we had the opportunity to test drive the newest combination product in diabetes: Sanofi/AgaMatrix's iBGStar, the first blood glucose meter that connects directly to the iPhone and iPod touch.
We last wrote about the iBGStar when it was cleared by FDA in December 2011, and this month's US-wide launch of the meter gave us the chance to give it a try for the first time. As a reminder, the iBGStar blood glucose meter is about the size of a USB memory stick (2.2 in x 0.9 in x 0.4 in) — very small! — and attaches to an iPhone or iPod touch through a built-in dock connector (i.e., no cords or cables are needed to plug it in to an iPhone or iPod touch). When the iBGStar is plugged directly into the Apple device and a person tests his or her blood sugar, the screen displays the test result using the iBGStar Diabetes Manager App (a free download in the iTunes App Store). The iBGStar also has a small screen on the device itself, meaning it can be used to test glucose levels as a standalone meter independent of an iPhone or iPod touch.
Ease of Use
In my view, a major highlight of the iBGStar is that it improves and simplifies the whole experience of blood glucose testing, from downloading the App to viewing results to sharing them with a healthcare provider. After taking the iBGStar out of the box and plugging it into an iPhone, I was immediately prompted to download the Diabetes Manager App. Compared to many other diabetes software programs I've installed, this was refreshingly quick and hassle-free. Checking blood glucose on the iBGStar — whether plugged into an Apple device or using the standalone meter (see below) — was also straightforward. When plugged into an iPhone or iPod touch (regardless of what I was doing on the device), the phone instantly recognized an inserted strip, opened the App, and automatically played an animation video demonstrating proper sample application technique. After a short wait for the six-second test time (accompanied by another animation — it actually counts to three, making the time seem closer to three seconds), the result was displayed in large, readable font on the Diabetes Manager App.
The Diabetes Manager App
I was able to learn and navigate through the App within a few minutes of booting it up, something I sort of take for granted in a world increasingly full of intuitive touchscreen technology. The App has clearly marked sections for entering data (carb, insulin, and manual blood glucose entry), reviewing statistics and charts, as well as easily sharing results via email. Color-coding was also nicely incorporated: orange for hyperglycemia, blue for in-zone, and fuchsia for hypoglycemia (no red or green to be found!). This feature really shone in the data menu, where the glucose values could be viewed over time in a scrollable chart. The graphical display — with colors to differentiate high or low glucose values — made it especially easy to spot areas where hypoglycemic or hyperglycemic values clustered.
The App also simplified information gathering by auto-tagging results based on the time of day. As someone that generally avoids all forms of manual data entry, I definitely appreciated this automation. After pre-setting my meal times (e.g., Breakfast: 8-10 am, Lunch: 12-2 pm, etc.), the App automatically tagged my results appropriately: Post-Breakfast, Pre-Dinner, etc. When an auto-tag was not applicable due to a different mealtime, changing it took just a couple taps. The array of "notes" that could be added to a result was also quite comprehensive — everything from "air bubble" to "fatty meal" to "light exercise" was already in the app, with the additional capability to add my own customized notes. Notes still required manual entry (meters cannot read minds yet!), but I liked that the iBGStar seemed to simplify the process as much as possible.
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One of the online diabetes groups I belong to (but don't frequently post to) is geared towards "frum" (Orthodox or "observant") Jewish people with (mostly type 1) diabetes. Most of the chat on the mailing list centers around people needing last-minute supplies before Shabbat or a holiday, where to acquire supplies and get medical help when visiting Israel, and advice on which pump is best for one's type 1 child — in other words, the usual sort of diabetes chatter, but...