David Lazarus is the consumer affairs columnist for the Los Angeles Times. He also has Type 1 diabetes. So he is the perfect person to keep on top of augmenting patients such as himself in innovative ways.

In June, Lazarus wrote a column about cutting-edge tech to make diabetes management easier and less painful. 1.25 million Americans have Type 1 diabetes, so any innovation here could really help bend the healthcare cost curve, and relieve needless suffering.

In the column Lazarus reviewed the Medtronic 670G insulin pump, coupled with the company’s SmartGuard technology, billed as the world’s first hybrid closed loop system. A continuous glucose monitor (CGM) is interacting with the pump, automatically telling it to raise or lower the wearer’s insulin doses, depending on their blood sugar level.

Lazarus’ verdict: “It’s impressive, but not yet ready for prime time.” But after wearing another new device, Dexcom’s G6 CGM, he proclaims it “an extraordinary step forward in diabetes care.” Among other things, it eliminates the pain of inserting previous CGMs.

There were rumors that Apple’s next Apple Watch, announced this month, would allow the G6 to send data directly to the watch, eliminating the need to carry an iPhone as an intermediary, making activities such as going to the gym, bike riding, or hiking. While that announcement did not occur, One Drop, another diabetes management system, did announce Sept. 12 shipment of a glucose meter capable of sending data to the Apple Watch.

I spoke to Lazarus more about these twin developments, which will move augmentation clearly into the diabetes management industry. Further improvements in the Medtronic system, such as Bluetooth connectivity, will impact many patients who already have previous generations of Medtronic gear, because eventually their insurers will pay for upgrades to the latest versions, he says.

“I had been getting up to eight to ten finger sticks a day on my busiest days, simply because I couldn’t afford to be caught in a situation where I was having a high or a low and I wouldn’t be able to check, so I’d have to be checking constantly before going on television for example or going on the radio or going to an interview or anything like that,” he says. “That now is displaced, and I just look at my wrist and carry glucose tabs with me, and I can’t say what it would an enormous change that makes in terms of management, and also confidence, that you’ve got your hands around this thing.”

With such developments accelerating, we live in very interesting times for augmented disease management. Physicians are certain to be hearing more about these developments, from vendors and patients alike.

HealthTap spends a lot of time advancing ways to augment the abilities of doctors through digital technology. Now, some of that technology is augmenting the abilities of patients with chronic illnesses to lead happier lives.

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Scott Mace

Scott Mace writes about healthcare, technology and related topics such as computer security, digital identity, and workflow automation. His journalism career spans more than 30 years, writing for such media as InfoWorld, Personal Computing, Byte, Boardwatch, IT Conversations, NurseWeek, HealthLeaders, and Identiverse. In 2015, he was a recipient of a Jessie H. Neal Award, an annual national journalism competition in business reporting, for best technical content in the January/February 2014 HealthLeaders cover story, "The ROI of EHR." For six years, he also served on the international board of directors for CalConnect, the Calendaring and Scheduling Consortium.

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