Kylene Redmond and Deb Foerster both are converts to their continuous glucose monitors, quarter-size devices that measure their blood sugar in real time so they can adjust their diet, their activity, and the medications they take to manage their diabetes.
The automated sensors give both women feedback they can use to better control their disease and manage their daily lives, they said Wednesday at the STAT Health Tech Summit, making the devices a bellwether for other wearables beyond diabetes that are gaining traction in both consumer and clinical markets.
“It was such a game changer,” Foerster said. “I do very closely monitor what I eat and what it does to my body as I eat, so I’m better able to make more informed choices.”
Foerster has type 2 diabetes, the much more common form of the disease in which people can’t make enough insulin to convert glucose into the fuel their cells need, or they grow insensitive to the insulin they do make. Redmond, who has type 1 diabetes, relies on an insulin pump to supply what her pancreatic islet cells no longer produce, restoring her ability to process glucose and keep the sugar from accumulating to harmful levels in the blood.
Both Foerster and Redmond said they heard about the glucose monitors long after they were diagnosed. For Redmond, “being able to literally see my numbers in real time was something that I wish that they definitely put me on earlier on in my diagnosis. Once I became more active in the [patient] community is when I found out about this technology.”
Redmond can stay in tighter glucose control with her Dexcom G6 and Forester has been able to cut down on her diabetes medications after becoming more active and losing 53 pounds with her Abbott FreeStyle Libre monitor.
Kevin Sayer, CEO of Dexcom, said at the Summit that the company plans to build on its early wins, in part by listening to what patients like Redmond and Foerster want. One of health tech’s success stories, the company will bring in $2 billion in revenue this year, he said, citing Wall Street estimates.
The tape used to stick the device to patients’ skin, is an example. “If I put a room of Dexcom users together, you’d get four or five different answers: too sticky, it’s not sticky enough, it’s just right, it makes my skin itch, it’s horrible,” he said. “And so we experimented with tapes. I think our next product the G7 will solve quite a bit of the things they talked about.”
“The G7 is much smaller, it’s very connected, the footprint on your body is smaller,” he added. … “The accuracy will be there and it will be better than our previous products.”
Looking further ahead, he said the company hopes to use patient data to start offering predictive capabilities. “I believe there’s a lot more data to mine than we have mined, and there’s a lot of smart people that can do things with this,” he said.
Collaborating with other health tech companies to offer more information to patients and work more closely with caregivers in the clinical setting is also a goal, working within tight FDA regulations.
“We don’t have worldwide integration with any of the big [electronic health record] systems, but boy, it’s something we’re working on and we’d love to get there,” he said.
Sayer’s not afraid to try other company’s wearables.
“My wife always makes fun of me — I wear sensors all the time,” he said. “I woke up one morning and I had four sensors on my body. She said, ‘This is enough! Stop!’
Nor is he afraid to integrate them with Dexcom’s.
“I think we will see the day when we incorporate data from the Oura ring or your wristband or whatever into our app.”
One challenge may be beyond Dexcom’s grasp. Redmond said far too many patients can’t get the cost of the glucose monitors covered by their insurance — if they even hear about the devices.
“Anyone who is diabetic who goes to the health care system that I go to, that’s a part of our program, but clearly that’s not standard care across everyone’s health care system and insurance,” Redmond said. “And then some people just don’t get the information. They don’t know about the technology.”