Getting Real About Data: The Pros + Cons of Diabetes Technology
There are a lot of benefits to seeing and using your data on diabetes management platforms, smart insulin pens and continuous glucose monitors (CGMs), but looking at your data too much can be detrimental to your mental health. By limiting how much you look at your data, you can create a more balanced life with diabetes.
This guide breaks down the cons of data over-stimulation and how using data from your smart insulin pen, CGM, or diabetes management platform can help you feel better about your management strategy.
Alarms: so helpful, but SO loud!
When you think about diabetes data, you likely think of constant sounds coming from a variety of your tech! And while it’s great to be in the know, hearing alarms too much can facilitate alarm fatigue.
For example, if you are running high or low and hear your CGM alarm go off, it may take longer to respond to the notice if you’ve listened to it often before. The sense of urgency may go down over time, or it may become white noise in the background of your life.
They are a great data point to have access to that can help prevent severe highs and lows, but if you need a little relief from the noise, talk to your doctor about where you can adjust your data points to reduce the number of alarms you hear per week slightly.
It’s not encouraged or ideal to turn off alarms, but limiting when you hear them may help to reduce the mental burden of diabetes.
Setting reminders: more configurations lead to less forgetting
Being able to rely on data from these devices can help you become less hands-on with your diabetes. For example, you can set reminders on some smart pens, like when you last took insulin and need to take more. These reminders can help prevent over-correcting or forgetting to take insulin shots.
If you recently started insulin therapy, this is a critical benefit!
But for the reminders to work across these devices, you have to input your insulin doses and work with your doctor to configure your reminder settings. So, if you aren’t big on that organization or don’t consider yourself tech-savvy, this might actually add more to your workload than lighten it.
Technology reliance: what happens if it fails?
While it’s great to be able to rely on technology to help with your diabetes management, depending on it too heavily can make technology failures even more stressful. Unfortunately, they are bound to happen at some point in your diabetes journey simply due to human error. (We are imperfect beings and cannot make perfect things!)
When technology fails, you may no longer have access to the data you’ve grown accustomed to, right at your fingertips, anymore. Though rare, if your device breaks or the diabetes management platform you use goes down, you may feel at a loss.
You need to consider whether these few experiences you may have will deter you from using what may benefit you most of the time. (Though, if you experience this more frequently, it may be time to re-evaluate your diabetes management strategy or device use with your doctor.)
Not having access to data stinks, but there is usually a quick remedy around the corner, whether going to your pharmacy for a refill or contacting customer support to request a complimentary backup of the failed product.
Don’t let the unknowns or fear of technology failure deter you from seizing the potential benefits of diabetes data access!
Diabetes data connections: more pros than glitches
If you like things to go as smoothly as possible at your diabetes checkups with your doctor and don’t want to forget to mention a high or low blood sugar streak from a week ago, data connections offer many benefits.
Diabetes management platforms also help you:
- See all of your diabetes data in one place.
- Recognize trends in your blood sugar levels than can help you make adjustments with your doctor to meet your target range.
- Enable you to have more virtual visits with your doctor, preventing a drive to see them and reducing anxiety about seeing them in person.
- Make more informed decisions with your doctor between and at diabetes checkups by enabling them to access your data remotely.
- Quicken diabetes checkups when your healthcare provider has access to your diabetes data in their portal through your connected app.
- Reduce the need to log your insulin doses or blood sugar levels manually.
- Reduce the emotional burden of thinking about diabetes more than you need to through automatic data logging.
- Connect your device to your mobile app, eliminating the need to carry around more diabetes supplies than you have to.
Though there could be glitches, the few times you may experience them shouldn’t be enough to sway you from automating your diabetes data processing. It can be a huge relief!
Smart insulin pens: is the data worth the hype?
If you are on multiple daily injections (MDI) and currently use “regular” insulin pens or syringes with insulin vials, you may consider upgrading to smart insulin pens for their enhanced data logging benefits.
With many of today’s smart insulin pens, you can:
- Be notified when your insulin has expired or gone over its temperature range.
- Quickly figure out your insulin doses at mealtimes using built-in calculations you configure with your doctor.
- Prevent missing or skipping insulin doses by setting alerts and reminders.
- Share your insulin dosing data easily with your doctor.
- Connect your smart insulin pen with your smartphone (usually iOS or Android) via its corresponding mobile app.
- Figure out your insulin dosing needs at mealtimes based on your food intake, insulin on board, and the settings you and your doctor have configured.
- Share your data with your healthcare provider more seamlessly at checkups.
While different insurance providers cover smart insulin pens at different levels, they’re worth looking into if these data benefits make your mind drool with possibility!
How you feel about your data matters
While having access to diabetes data is beneficial, the way we think about it and see it matters just as much as grasping it. If you see your smart pen data, for example, and notice you have missed 27 injections and focus on what you’ve missed instead of what you’ve achieved, that is problematic.
Data can facilitate creating false narratives in your head about how you see your diabetes management strategy. Remember—for every 27 injections you miss, you didn’t forget 120! (Or whatever your numbers are.) And, even if you’ve missed more injections than you’ve administered, don’t be hard on yourself. Being mean to yourself about your data or otherwise never helped anyone.
Seeing your diabetes data should be an opportunity to have an open and empathetic conversation with your healthcare provider about what is and isn’t working for you.
Data access should never act as a means to shame or blame. Your self-worth is not the same as your data logs. If you tell yourself this or hear it from others, that is not okay. Then the data isn’t working how it should! Data should empower, not shame.
You are much more than a snapshot of numbers in a given period, and data shouldn’t trump how hard you’re working on managing your diabetes. Even if the numbers don’t match the effort you are truly giving, every little better is better.
The bottom line: do what’s best for you
This guide touches the surface of the pros and cons of diabetes data in current technology. How you feel about your data matters just as much as seeing it in front of you. For some people, more data equals more problems. For others, it equals more relief!
However you decide to approach your diabetes management, what matters most is that you do what is the least stressful and most helpful for you. Diabetes data should be another cheerleader on your team, not a hindrance.
Everyone benefits from different things in their diabetes management strategy, and that’s okay!
Educational content related to the role of data in diabetes management is made possible with support from Lilly, an active partner of Beyond Type 1 at the time of publication. Editorial control rests solely on Beyond Type 1.