Understanding Diabetes: First 30 days
Before joining Now Patient, I worked at another health-tech start-up with a similar mission – to empower people with long-term conditions, like diabetes, to better manage their everyday lives. I had designed for a number of different complex health conditions but never diabetes.
My diabetes experience prior to joining Now Patient was limited to a simplistic understanding from having a close friend living with type 1 diabetes. Admittedly, in hindsight, I was naive and my understanding of diabetes management was highly oversimplified. It followed the logic that specific foods increased a person’s blood glucose level, which required enough insulin to be injected to lower it, balancing these factors. If these weren’t balanced properly, there was the potential for the person to have dangerously low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) or dangerously high blood sugar levels (hyperglycemia). Simple, right?
Far from it. Since joining Now Patient, my empathy for what it is like to live with diabetes mellitus is forever increasing. I’m very quickly learning that living with diabetes has the potential to make everything in life harder if the equilibrium between a number of factors isn’t found. Factors like the hormones in our body or the weather, things we have no control over, can impact our blood sugar levels and the symptoms of diabetes. For the majority of people, the impact of these is minimal but for people living with diabetes, the effect of these on blood sugar can, over time, have long-lasting consequences. These factors, as well as many more, appear obvious now but it is easy to lack an understanding of what, in everyday life, is an invisible health condition.
For each person, the experience of type 1 diabetes and type 2 diabetes is unique, with each having their own variation of ways to try to keep their sugars within range. Diabetics need to consider some of the following: whether their diabetes medication is working correctly, their carbohydrate intake, when to take their insulin injections, when it’s best to do physical activity, establishing a healthy life with healthy eating habits and meal plans for weight loss, keeping cholesterol levels within range and awareness of diabetes complications such as diabetic ketoacidosis, heart disease, heart attacks, high blood pressure, kidney disease, and potential nerve damage. There is a whole array of factors for diabetics to consider. However, continual reevaluation and guesstimation with diabetes care can bring a heavy mental burden, and in addition to balancing glucose, this can lead to a negative impact on physical and mental well-being. Balancing the factors that a person with diabetes can control can be overwhelming but technology is there to help.
Unfortunately, most current apps and devices are focussed on the healthcare, recording and reporting, perspective of treating diabetes and fail to alleviate the burden of planning everyday life. This is why I’m glad to be designing at Now Patient, helping to develop a future-focussed App for people with diabetes.
Our goal is to help alleviate some of the everyday mental burdens of forward planning by helping our users visualise how the factors they have control over are impacting their blood glucose, as well as helping them make better-informed decisions based on their collective past experiences.
Having only been at Now Patient for a short while, I’m conscious there is much more for me to learn from our users and people living with diabetes. I’m extremely grateful for those who’ve shared their stories and experiences with me so far.
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