By Kristin Sykes, Marketing Manager, Validic™
I was 27 weeks into my pregnancy and it was time for me to take the dreaded glucose challenge test that would screen for gestational diabetes. This is a normal screening that occurs for all pregnant women between weeks 24-28, and it involves drinking 50g of glucose (think of a flat orange soda with a ton of sugar in it) and then having your blood sugar tested an hour later.
The next day, I found out that I failed the test by four points, which meant I had to retake the test. However, this time I had to chug 100g of glucose and have my blood drawn four times over three hours. Of course, I went into full panic mode and began to spend a lot of time with Dr. Google. What would this mean for my pregnancy? Was my baby going to be okay, and was he going to be born weighing 15 pounds!? Was I going to need insulin?
For context, I am a health-conscious person who eats healthy and exercises five to six times a week. I am also very health literate – I was a pre-med student in college and I now work for a healthcare IT company. I feel knowledgeable about disease management and the digital tools that are available to help manage chronic conditions, but the thought of being diagnosed with gestational diabetes was still a hard pill to swallow. After failing the second glucose challenge test, I had a good idea of what the next 12 weeks of my pregnancy was going to look like and I was not very excited.
So what is gestational diabetes? It is diabetes that develops during pregnancy in women who don’t already have diabetes. Gestational diabetes affects about 18 percent of pregnant women, and about seven percent will face complications. During pregnancy, your body makes more hormones and goes through other changes that cause your body’s cells to use insulin less effectively, a condition called insulin resistance. Insulin resistance increases your body’s need for insulin. All pregnant women have some insulin resistance during late pregnancy that only sometimes results in gestational diabetes. However, what’s scarier than my initial diagnosis is that I now also have a 50 percent chance of developing Type 2 diabetes later in my life.
My healthcare provider had me schedule an appointment with a diabetes educator who was also a registered dietician. She reviewed what my diet looked like, gave me a glucometer and showed me how to use it, and then gave a seemingly archaic paper booklet to log all of my blood sugar readings for my doctor to review bi-weekly. This made me laugh. The company I work for, Validic, has been developing solutions for years to solve this very issue – connecting the data that patients generate from their home health devices to their healthcare providers, and elevating data that is above or below specific thresholds.
This, unlike a paper booklet which my provider will only have the opportunity to glance at during in-person appointments, enables the physician to take real-time action on important exception data instead of retroactively reviewing pages of old data. In addition, Validic VitalSnap eliminates the use of paper logs by capturing the data from nearly all non-connected glucometers (including the one that my nutritionist gave me), while Validic Impact streamlines the data sharing into the EHR so that my doctor could be alerted in real time if my readings fell out of threshold. Not only that, with Validic, my physician could also monitor my weight, nutrition and blood pressure through a streamlined method. All of these vitals are extremely important in maintaining a healthy pregnancy, especially with gestational diabetes.
Instead, I was told to take my readings four times a day, and to email my physician via MyChart if I had a reading that fell out of range. Now, I happen to be an extremely compliant patient, however, I can see how many patients can easily become overwhelmed and disengaged with their care plan. Not only is it a hassle to carry around my paper logbook (along with the glucometer, lancet, and glucose strips), but it is also unhygienic. Maybe it is because I am new to diabetes, but it never fails that I somehow get blood all over my paper logbook. Does my doctor really want to look at that?
I mean, honestly, which method would you prefer if you were a patient?
Last week, I had a fasting glucose reading one point out of range. I reached out to my nurse, who told me that it was likely nothing major, and to just discuss it with my doctor at my next appointment. But, this left me frustrated. My diabetes is currently being managed through diet and exercise and I want to avoid having to take insulin. How can I make positive behavior change and adjustments to my diet to lower my fasting glucose levels if I can’t easily correlate my diet, exercise and glucose readings? This experience made me better understand why patients become disengaged with a care program – if you’re not getting the answers you need, and not understanding what’s going on with your own health, it’s difficult to stay positive.
As my gestational diabetes is something that just developed a few weeks ago, I’m still learning how to manage my condition and how to make tweaks to my meals to keep my glucose readings within range. But, I can’t help but consider how much easier that would be if my provider were able to leverage the technology I know is available to make my health more manageable and more understandable. For a patient like me, being able to understand your own health is crucial to your ability and willingness to actively participate and actively work to improve your own outcomes. The technology being built today – and what’s already available to us – has the potential to make a patient’s experience easier, happier, and healthier.