Tuesday, 15 December 2009 14:45

Telstra puts blood glucose measurement online

Telstra's claiming an Australian first for its diabetes management online service.

Used with a MyGlucoHealth Bluetooth enabled blood glucose meter, Telstra's application runs on compatible mobile phones such as the Nokia 6720.

Measurements from the meter are then stored in a secure database accessible from a Next G mobile phone or the Internet.

"The Telstra Diabetes Management Online Service technology gives diabetes patients a simple and more reliable way to track their blood glucose levels and send their results quickly. This solution is specifically designed to help diabetes patients and their care givers better manage their condition," said  Christophe Bur, executive director, Telstra product management.

A field trial involving 100 patients found participants tested their blood glucose levels more frequently, kept more accurate records, and gained new insights into the management of their condition.

"More than 80% of participants involved in our study are continuing to use the service," said Bur.

The service can also generate SMS notifications to the patient and their health care team when readings exceed a medically-agreed threshold, or to remind the patient to perform tests or take medications.

But how much does it cost, and is it good value? Find out on page 2.

The MyGlucoHealth meter costs $A125, and the Telstra diabetes management online service costs $A30 per month.

That could be regarded as being on the expensive side.

Medical doctor and Type 2 diabetic Frank McLeod told iTWire "I think this is a very expensive option that will add little in practical terms to the management of diabetic patients. I cannot see too many patients wishing to pay (AKA 'waste' in this context) money simply to record their blood sugar levels since they have been doing that for eons in a book specifically designed for that purpose.

"If they wish to go 'techno' then some meters are available where for the same one-off outlay as proposed by Telstra for the purchase of their supported meter, they can link to their own computer or their doctors for that matter if they so desire and download and print a variety of displays
showing their results. In fact we have one here and it uses a rather smart USB/infrared link to display in the PC's browser.

"I can see some but only an occasional advantage where a parent is trying to get a Type 1 diabetic child to test their blood while away from home, but that can easily be done by using the system above and downloading the information when the child returns home.

"For a first year cost of the best part of $500 with data charges on top, I think most people will find a whole of other more practical ways to spend their money."

Paul Zucker, a diabetic, shared McLeod's concern about the cost: "In short, it's a good way to blow $30 a month," he told iTWire.

[Added 16/12/09] Telstra spokesperson Peter Habib noted that most health insurance funds provide a rebate for the purchase of the meter, SMS notifications to the patient and their carers improves compliance, and the online database allows doctors to view the readings even when patients forget to take their diaries to a consultation.

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Stephen Withers

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Stephen Withers is one of Australia¹s most experienced IT journalists, having begun his career in the days of 8-bit 'microcomputers'. He covers the gamut from gadgets to enterprise systems. In previous lives he has been an academic, a systems programmer, an IT support manager, and an online services manager. Stephen holds an honours degree in Management Sciences and a PhD in Industrial and Business Studies.

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