Taking CGMs to the Next Level
Pumps, pens, meters, sensors—type 1 diabetes management involves increasingly more accoutrements, and they can seem overwhelming when counted among the other technology that is part of everyday life even without diabetes. After all, smartphones, tablets and smart watches have pretty much become mandatory accessories in this golden age of tech.
Savvy companies, picking up on the tech trend, are creating new ways to make the most of our diabetes management tools using those very accessories that are now standard regardless of whether or not you’re living with a chronic condition.
The Spike app is a free program available for people with diabetes (PWDs) who are using a Dexcom Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM) and are also using iOS 2.2.0 on an Apple Watch, an iPhone 4s and higher, an iPod touch 5 and higher, or an iPad 2 and higher. According to the Spike app website, the older the device, the better (sorry, Android users, we hope your day is not far off!).
What exactly does the Spike app do?
Spike pledges to “completely change the way you manage your diabetes.” The data it collects from the Dexcom is shared with other programs like Nightscout and then can be used to create an offline closed loop system. Features include customizable alarms and charts formatted the way you want to see them—goodbye to those unnecessary, tall, narrow graphs that you have to squint to comprehend!
We spoke with some current and former users of Spike to get the real deal on the app. Allan H., from Burk’s Falls, Ontario, Canada, started using Spike earlier in 2018. After over 30 years of living with type 1, Allan said, “Spike has made it easier to predict what my blood glucose (BG) will be.”
“I discovered the Spike app because I was looking for a way to save money on Dexcom supplies,” said Allan, who first explored more advanced diabetes management technology with the iOSxDripReader. “My diabetes management itself went through a little bump in the transition from the Dexcom app to iOSxDripReader because that old app lacked a lot of features. Then Spike came out and had the features to set custom alerts more specifically. As I transitioned to Spike, I found my BG came back to what I was used to because I could see what was going on more clearly.”
In addition to saving on his Dexcom supplies, one of the things Allan loves the most about the app is not needing a two-hour warmup period when starting a new sensor and being able to manually manipulate data directly within the Spike app.
“I usually backdate the sensor insertion time (I realize not ideal for initial accuracy) but at least I get readings right away. Spike doesn’t stop the sensors weekly so there’s no ‘downtime’ every week to restart the sensor, as is unavoidable with the Dexcom app,” Allan said.
Another perk of using Spike is the built-in support system: the closed Facebook group group has over 3,500 members who offer advice and hacks. The diabetes community at large plays a role in its very existence, as crowdfunding is accepted through the Spike-app.com website to keep the app free and as up-to-date as possible.
Like any technology, Spike isn’t perfect. For Katrina D., from Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, battery life became an issue when using Spike on her iPhone SE.
“I found out about Spike through my friend who was using it for her DIY closed-looping system,” said Katrina, who has been living with type 1 for eight years, “I used it for about three months and was extremely satisfied with it. Unfortunately, the app started having issues with iPhone 7 and SE users (me) which for some reason would drain Dexcom transmitter batteries within days. Spike’s developers are an incredible crew of people and are vigorously working on resolving that issue, but in the meantime I have had to switch over to the Dexcom app. I miss Spike a lot because there was so much more flexibility in settings, and definitely not as many restrictions as the FDA/Health Canada requires Dexcom’s app to have.”
Despite having to pause her own use of the app, Katrina would “absolutely” recommend Spike to her fellow PWDs. “I had almost total control to set things the way I wanted and the way things worked for me. This made my day-to-day management so much more comfortable, and not having random annoying built-in alarms go off was nice!”
While Allan is looking forward to further developments in dia-tech like closed-loop systems, apps like Spike are offering more people more information with which they can make nuanced choices about their diabetes management like never before—and also have more control over the products they consume and how they consume them.
“Even with the basic [tech elements] Spike offers, I have lots of info if I want it,” he said, “Not to mention, I’m saving money on transmitters.”