An Israeli app for diabetics goes global

Dario smart meter system helps people monitor blood sugar levels through their smartphone

Dario app screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Dario app screenshot (Photo credit: Courtesy)

An Israeli medical device is making inroads into the $12 billion diabetes monitoring and insulin delivery market.

There are hundreds of glucose meters on the market – needed by diabetics to measure their blood sugar levels and determine how much insulin they need to administer – but the Dario system is one of just a few that uses smartphones to manage the meter itself.

“Diabetics are very community-minded and share information and knowledge in forums via social media and other methods, and we see a lot of photos of people using the system, with very positive reviews about how much more convenient and easy it is than alternative systems,” said Erez Raphael, CEO of Dario maker Labstyle Innovations.

The app automatically downloads information from the meter and uploads the data about the user’s activity and condition to the cloud, where it can be accessed by medical personnel for analysis. It also sends out reminders to users to check their blood, provides graphs and charts about how their blood sugar levels change throughout the day and even keeps track of calories and carbs, offering food suggestions to users based on their current sugar levels.

The recording and analysis is done by the app, which communicates with the pocket-sized Dario meter. The meter connects to smart devices via the headphone socket, and includes a lancet for blood sampling and cartridges containing insulin strips that can be easily popped out and changed.

The metering process takes about six seconds and there are no batteries; the meter gets its power from the iPhone or Android phone it’s connected to.

The Dario smart meter and app for diabetics are currently available for patients in the UK, the Netherlands, Italy and New Zealand as part of their national health insurance plans. Last week, Australia announced that it, too, would reimburse patients using the Dario system.

“This is wonderful news for the large population of people with diabetes in Australia,” said Will Knox, Dario’s distributor in Australia. “By making Dario available through reimbursement, more people with diabetes will be able to make better informed decisions and improve their lifestyle and we expect expansive demand for the product here in Australia.”

The system costs about $60, comparable to other meters – and the app, which, said Raphael, enhances the meter’s value significantly, is free.

But the company isn’t necessarily interested in selling the system.

Erez Raphael (Photo credit: Courtesy)
Erez Raphael (Photo credit: Courtesy)

“In the UK and the other countries where we operate, the national health insurance pays for the meter, as well as for the insulin cartridges,” said Raphael. “We are working on deals with insurance companies and government insurance offices in other countries, including in the US, where we hope to deploy in the near future.”

Raphael believes he will be able to convince many of the American insurance companies to adopt Dario.

“Our advantage is that we combine diagnostics with delivery,” he said. “If we were just doing diagnostics, they wouldn’t be interested, because there are so many solutions for that. Insurance companies today are looking for performance as well, and with our app, we automate that performance to ensure compliance and better analysis.”

For diabetes patients, motivation is a key factor in staying healthy, and for that motivation, Dario enables users to easily get involved in online communities of others suffering from the same condition, said Raphael.

“Users have all the data at their fingertips, so all they have to do is upload information to their Facebook page or an online forum if they have a question or concern,” he said. “With the charts, graphs and statistics, they get a solid and easy to relate to a method of tracking their health.”

Dario is turning out to be such a success, in fact, that Raphael plans to deploy the technology for other chronic conditions.

“We actually had in mind to serve patients in a number of areas, such as people who need to check their cholesterol on a regular basis, but we decided to start with diabetes because they are much more used to the idea of self-diagnosis and medicine delivery, and are more involved in online communities.”

Of course, not all diabetics are going to use a smartphone app. Many Type II diabetics, for example, are older and less tech-savvy. Raphael agrees, but doesn’t expect that to be a problem.

“My 82-year-old grandmother probably won’t use it, but my 62-year-old mother, who uses Facebook, Twitter and Whatsapp, would probably like it,” he said. “Digital apps aren’t just for kids anymore.”

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