Finding new and innovative ways to log our diabetes info is all the rage these days. While some companies are manufacturing new gadgets to help us log and track blood sugar readings, medication doses, carb counts and more, many new apps have been created by PWDs (people with diabetes) who live with the overflow of numbers everyday. In fact, these awesome D-entrepreneurs were the inspiration for our recurring Small But Mighty series on grassroots solutions from within our community.
We recently heard about a new app being created by Nial Giacomelli, a 25-year-old type 1 PWD and iOS/OS X/web developer from Emsworth, United Kingdom. His day job is working at company called Pinkfroot. On his own time, he’s one of these entrepreneurs working on a new logging app for D-peeps, and he needs our help!
Nial plans to make his app, The Diabetic Journal, available for Apple users for free to use on iPhones and iPods. Woot! But before he can launch, he needs approximately £7,500 pounds (almost $12,000) to complete development. So far, he’s raised some money but still has about £4,500 ($7,000+) to go.
Wanting to know more about the need for this in a time with no shortage of iPhone apps for diabetes, we chatted with Nial to find out what makes his app special and why there’s a need to get the funding to make it happen.
DM) Before we talk apps, tell us a little bit about your own diabetes story.
NG) My diabetes story is perhaps a little more convoluted than most. I was diagnosed as a type 1 just over five years ago, when I was 20 years old. I visited my doctor after exhibiting some fairly typical symptoms (unquenchable thirst and blurred vision), but was told it was highly unlikely that I was diabetic. It was only after speaking with a former diabetic nurse that I urged my health care provider to perform a blood test. Roughly a week later I was told that I was diabetic, but due to a poor understanding of the disease (both on my part, and on the part of my doctor) I wasn’t given any immediate care. I was admitted to the hospital roughly three weeks later having lost 1.5 stone in weight (about 21 pounds!). A hospital investigation determined that due to either poor training or a possible misunderstanding, my doctor had assumed that I would be capable of controlling my condition through dietary control alone.
The hospital made an official complaint on my behalf. I didn’t hear very much about it after that. It’s worth noting that my doctor at the time was a few months away from retirement. After my diagnosis, I only saw him briefly once more for an unrelated matter. He was very red-faced, but offered no apology! I’m assuming that diabetic medicine improved while he was practicing but for whatever reason he failed to keep up-to-date with it.
I’m based in the UK, so once I was admitted to the hospital I was looked after by NHS (National Health Service) nursing staff who were absolutely fantastic — I hold them in the absolute highest regard. Because it was a weekend, I had to wait to see a diabetic specialist the following Monday. She talked me through my insulin pen and sat with me while I administered my first dose. I attended a meeting at the local hospital for newly diagnosed patients and since then I’ve followed the advice I’ve been given as best as possible. I regularly attend retinal screenings and diabetic health checkups and try to test my blood sugars as regularly as I can.
Five years later, how are you managing your diabetes now?
I currently take Humulin M3 (equivalent to a 70/30 mix in the U.S.) through an insulin pen twice a day, test regularly and, with the help of my new app The Diabetic Journal, I log everything religiously!
The Diabetic Journal is built to be fast. It features an innovative technology that I’m calling Smart Input, which is capable of analyzing the medication you take and using that information to enter data for you. The result is that the application already knows which medicine you’re about to take — meaning you don’t have to type a thing!
The application comes with a unique note-taking system that allows you to quickly tag and search entries based on simple search terms, meaning you can curate your journal however you like. I’ve built in a custom alert system that can alert you to take your medication when you leave the house or at a set time when you’re due to take it.
I’ve slaved over every aspect of the application’s interface in order to make it as efficient as possible. The result is an application that I believe is more focused than any other diabetic management software out there.
What inspired you to create your own diabetes logging application?
Well, I develop software for a living and had found myself becoming increasingly frustrated by existing diabetic iPhone applications. I found it took me too long to input data into existing applications and as a result, I failed to keep my journal updated with accurate information. I actually wrote the first version of the application for myself and had no intention of releasing it publicly. It was only after a friend noticed how much value I found in it that I began to consider how it could help others.
“Ultimately, I’m just a diabetic who got tired of waiting for someone else to revolutionize the way I manage my disease.”
— Nial Giacomelli, on developing his own diabetes data management app
We’ve written before about how PWDs aren’t always motivated to log their blood sugars… why do you think logging is so important?
I believe logging is important because it gives diabetics context. One of the first things I think you truly come to learn as a diabetic is just how much of an effect your lifestyle can have on your disease. The more information you have at your disposal, the healthier you can be. The immediate benefits are obvious: you know exactly when you took this medication or ate that meal. But the long-term benefits are also huge. Knowing your blood sugar on a specific date and time is interesting, but having enough context to know why is what’s truly helpful.
Why the fundraising? What do you hope to accomplish?
I made the decision to fund through (the online platform) Kickstarter because of its altruistic nature. It became clear to me early on in the campaign that a number of large charitable organizations were unwilling to show support because of competing interests. By Kickstarting the project, I’m able to provide a totally free application with absolutely no financial obligations. It’s given the project a clarity and focus that I don’t think I would have found through traditional funding.
The funding itself will allow me to include beautifully interactive charts for the application, as well as a number of other important features. It will also allow me to hire a design team to make sure the application is as efficient and approachable as is humanly possible.
What kind of timeline are you working toward?
The deadline for fundraising is Feb. 11, 2013, and I have to raise all the money in order to take home anything! The plan is to launch my app by June at the latest, but I’m hoping I can get it launched even earlier.
It’s pretty amazing to find all of these PWD brains taking matters into their own hands to help make our lives with diabetes easier. Hopefully, we can soon include Nial in the ranks of our Small But Mighty business owners who are profiting from their ingenuity while also inspiring and helping us all!