The palm-sized device looks like any number of electronic gadgets, but it’s not for playing music or making phone calls.
Instead, it allows a diabetic patient to share the results of a simple blood glucose test with doctors, parents or other caregivers in seconds.
“If you’re the mom of a kid with diabetes, it used to be that you were spending your day calling the school nurse to find out if you’re kid’s okay,” said Dr. Jonathan Javitt, CEO of Telcare, the Bethesda-based company that developed the monitor. “[Now], every time your child tests, there’s the data in the form of a [text message].”
Diabetics commonly test their own glucose levels by pricking a finger and placing a drop of blood in a portable monitoring device.
Parents and patients who use the Telcare monitor also have access to various graphs and reports generated by the data from the Telcare monitors, and doctors have their own portal to access the patient’s glucose readings, Javitt said. Having that data lets doctors see almost instantly how their diabetic patients are doing, which ones need more guidance on managing their glucose levels, and which ones might need immediate medical assistance, Javitt said.
The Telcare monitor has a list price of $150. It was developed through a partnership with Verizon’s Open Development Initiative, through which Verizon works with other companies to incorporate wireless technology into their products, said Melanie Ortel, a spokeswoman for Verizon Wireless.
“We invite innovators to work with us on solutions to help many [fields], including education, health care, sustainability [and] energy management,” Ortel said. Telcare worked with Verizon to develop the chip for the device, which works exclusively with Verizon, she said.
Patients can use free apps for their mobile phones or tablet computers to track their data. Each glucose reading is followed either by a recommendation or warning about the glucose levels, or a piece of advice about how patients can better manage their health — what Javitt calls a “fortune cookie.”
So far, Telcare is the only company to have such a monitor approved by the federal Food and Drug Administration. The device recently received approval to be used in the European Union and parts of Asia, Javitt said.
Much of the interest in the United States has come from employers looking to save money on health insurance costs. If a business has 1,000 employees, 150 of them are likely to be diabetic, and the condition adds an average of $6,000 per year to a person’s health care costs, Javitt said.
Seven out of 10 health-care dollars are spent on chronic illnesses, and diabetic patients are expected to be their own primary caregivers, he said.
“Yet the patient, historically, has not been connected to the health care system, except episodically,” Javitt said. “The notion was, ‘Let’s invent a world where patients who have chronic illnesses are connected all of the time.’”