Who Cares About the iPod, Where is the Apple Glucose Meter?

A few months ago I was looking at blood sugar meters and cholesterol testers for family members.  I have had my blood tested for various things throughout my life and I've seen the standard drugstore-issue glucose monitors in action, so I had a very basic idea of what I was looking for.  But I wasn't exactly an expert, so I went online. Now one of the benefits of living in the Internet age is that if you need to learn about any technological device, from MP3 players to video cards to application servers, you can quickly and easily find out all about it online.  Making a major purchase?  Some skillful Googling will lead you to novice-level tutorials, product comparisons, recommendations from normal users, and jargon-laden details from experts. Unless you want to buy a glucose meter.  I found virtually nothing except for short blurbs on retailers' sites.  I even had a hard time finding product info from manufacturers! The worst thing is, I was wasting my time.  Even if there had been a ton of info out there, comparisons, anecdotes, reviews, etc., it would have been no use.  Because as far as I can tell, all blood glucose monitors are complicated, confusing devices that are difficult to use.  Diabetics are supposed to test their blood every day, but the testers are temperamental, require expensive consumables, and can fail without always alerting you to the error. You have to line up drops of liquid on a tiny little target.  Make sure you cover the whole target, or the results will be off.  Make sure you don't go outside the target, or you'll screw up everything.  Oh, maybe you need to recalibrate.  Did you check how old the strips are? I was really, really surprised about this.  Actually, it was a mix of surprise and anger - why should anyone have to put up with such frustration for something that is so important? Why would a confusing interface make me so angry?  I couldn't really put my finger on it (bad pun) until now.  I just read an article at Techcrunch, "Apple iPod vs. the Insulin Pump."  Apparently a blog that covers Diabetes that has posted an open letter to Steve Jobs of Apple:

We are, of course, deeply grateful to the medical device industry for keeping us alive.  Where would we be without them?  But while they’re still struggling with shrinking complex technologies down to a scale where we can attach them, hard-wired, to our bodies, design kinda becomes an afterthought.

This is where the world needs your help, Steve.
This is precisely what is needed.  Now, it doesn't have to be Steve Jobs or even Jonathan Ive, the guys who designed the iPod.  Any designer with some insight and a proven track record of making usable devices could probably improve these medical devices immeasurably.  Millions of people's lives could be made easier if someone married modern medical technology with user-centered design. So add me to the list of people asking the questions in this letter, Steve (few people realize that Steve Jobs reads Unsought Input daily and hangs on our every word).

  1. What kind of information were you looking for? I did a google search for blood glucose meter and came back with several relevant results on the first page. And really, using the meters isn’t as challenging in my opinion as you’ve made it out to be in this post.

    Also, a lot of meters are very small nowadays and much better than they were 10 years ago. Technology is improving even in blood glucose meters. see this site here: http://www.diabetesnet.com/diabetes_technology/blood_glucose_meters.php
    it has a whole list of different types…there has to one as small as your iPod nano…

    April 24th, 2007 at 3:50 pm
  2. Brad, you can definitely find a list of products with a Google search, but try answering these questions: which is the easiest to use? Which one has the lowest false reading rate (real world, with home users)? Which one has the smallest target on the test strip? Is the target so small that it’s too easy to get blood outside of it, causing an error?

    I’m afraid I haven’t made my point, if you think I was just looking for a meter the size of an iPod Nano. I was looking for one as easy to use as an iPod Nano. I’m a big nerd who loves gadgets and I found the instructions for several of the meters to be long, complex, and confusing – imagine all the technophobes out there trying to deal with it.

    May 1st, 2007 at 1:04 am

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