I’ve gotten a lot of use out of the Watch over the past couple years and I’m not giving it up any time soon. But the Band adds some useful –and novel— features, making it more of a complement than a substitute. I’m planning to keep wearing both.
(January 3, 2021 Update: I have been asked about whether I’ve found a way to import Amazon Halo data into the Apple Health app. The answer is no. When I follow instructions from Apple to import data from other apps, Halo doesn’t show up, which means it’s unlikely to be compatible. I followed Amazon’s instructions to download my Halo data. Theoretically I could enter it into Apple Health manually but that would be cumbersome and not likely to yield much. I am going to explore this topic further to see what I find and possibly write a new post or record a supplemental podcast.)
Looking for something useful to do with your Apple Watch? Dexcom, the maker of a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) for diabetics, suggests you use the watch to monitor CGM –your own or someone else’s. This functionality has been available as a smartphone app, but the watch version is designed to be more convenient and discreet.
Dexcom answered my questions below:
Is the Apple Watch useful or more of a toy or gimmick?
For people with diabetes, their family members and loved ones, the Apple Watch is an extremely useful tool. It lets people access their blood glucose data right from their wrist, providing superior convenience and discretion.
What opportunities does the watch provide for people with diabetes? What is the incremental improvement from a smartphone?
The Apple Watch allows greater convenience for those who want this important information in an easy-to-use and discreet form. We share Apple’s commitment to making technology more accessible, relevant and personal.
How does the Dexcom CGM work on the Apple Watch? What are patients really getting?
Dexcom CGM provides patients the opportunity to track their glucose levels and trends right on their wrist with the Apple Watch. Here’s how it works: The user downloads either of the Dexcom apps, Share2 or Follow to their iPhone. The Dexcom G4 PLATINUM System with Share transmits that user’s glucose information to the Share receiver using BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) wireless communication technology. The Share receiver then sends the information through the iPhone to the watch. The Dexcom apps on the iPhone sync with the watch to provide caregivers and people with diabetes continuously updated glucose information and trend graphs. Additionally, patients or “Sharers” can invite up to five people to view their glucose information and send an alert when the sharer’s glucose levels are outside the norm.
What are the benefits to allowing other users to “follow” your glucose levels on their own devices?
The Dexcom apps will now enable users to monitor glucose on the Apple Watch so that people with diabetes can discreetly view their own information while parents and caregivers can conveniently view a child or loved one’s glucose data, giving them peace of mind and reassurance when they are apart. Examples of people who may benefit include a parent who can monitor a child’s blood glucose levels at night, while the child is at a sleepover, or away at camp or college. Or, a spouse can monitor their loved one’s glucose while they are away on a business trip. It’s useful for anyone who wants to monitor or share glucose information from a remote location.
What information can a person with diabetes or caregiver get when they log into the apps?
Through the Dexcom apps, Share2 and Follow, caregivers and people with diabetes have access to glucose data in real time. They allow both users and “followers” to view glucose data directly on their phone and now on the watch.
Does the Watch set off alarms for patients and followers?
Yes, with an iPhone and the Follow app installed, the watch can alert the Sharer and follower when the Sharer’s glucose levels are outside the designated range, allowing appropriate action to be taken.
Can patients just use the watch and no longer wear the receiver?
Patients will need to have the Dexcom receiver in order for the glucose data to be sent to the iPhone and the watch. For the Apple Watch to work for this purpose, the receiver and the phone are both needed.
What is the benefit of CGM in relation to other methods for monitoring and managing diabetes?
For someone with diabetes, monitoring blood glucose, or blood sugar, levels is a very important part of managing their diabetes. The traditional method for monitoring blood sugar levels is with a blood glucose meter where only a point in time reading is viewed a few times per day. But CGM is a dynamic tool that provides continuous glucose readings (up to 288 readings per day) along with the speed and direction that the glucose levels are headed. In addition, CGM has alerts to let the user know when they are heading too high or low so that action can be taken prior to it reaching a level of concern. Continuous glucose monitoring, or CGM, is considered the most significant breakthrough in diabetes management in the past 40 years.CGM augments the use of glucose meters for the management of diabetes. Meters are still required to calibrate CGMs and for guidance in making therapy and meal decisions.
How do patients with diabetes go about getting the diabetes app? Is it included with the watch, is there an additional cost?
The Share2 and Follow apps can be downloaded for free through theApp Store.
Is CGM for Type 1, Type 2 or both?
A Continuous glucose monitor, or CGM, can be used by any person with type 1 or type 2 diabetes on insulin who is concerned about his or her diabetes management. People with diabetes who take insulin must monitor their blood glucose levels frequently. Uncontrolled glucose can cause health complications and can even be life-threatening.
There have been concerns about the Apple Watch battery life. Is there any impact on CGM?
The Dexcom receiver houses all the CGM capabilities. In order to get CGM functionality on the Apple Watch, patients must have their receiver with them at all times.
I was brave (or stupid enough) to download iOS8 on my iPhone 5 early yesterday morning at Boston’s Logan Airport. Luckily the update completed before I had to get on the plane. It was neat to see a Health icon pop up on the home screen, and I had a chance to give it a quick look. There wasn’t all that much I could do with it for now, beyond entering some basic data like height and weight, but it’s an intuitive app that fits in with the rest of Apple’s iOS offerings. We’ll have to wait for 3rd party apps to hook into Health through HealthKit, which will take awhile. And the Apple Watch isn’t out yet either.
I think Health is going to lead the market, but not dominate. Here’s my logic:
Like other Apple innovations –think iPod and iPad– decent products already existed in those categories and were starting to get some traction. I had mp3 players and a tablet computer years before, but Apple did a better job of packaging everything up and taking usability to the next level. For me, the iTunes store differentiated the iPod and the long battery life made iPad worth ponying up for. In this case Apple is entering a market that others have already been prospecting in. Some of those others –like Fitbit– have taken a lesson from Apple and tried to make elegant products that won’t be so easily pushed out of the way by Apple mania
The soon-to-be-introduced Apple Watch should work very smoothly with the iPhone or iPad. I’m planning to get one when it arrives, and I’m holding out hope for a high quality heart rate monitor as part of the package. This is the type of product that should evolve quickly, with new sensors and improved performance, but it will take some getting used to before I start trading in my watch every year or two and charging it up every night
Despite the recent dustup over iCloud accounts being hacked, I do trust Apple with my personal data more than I trust competitors like Google. Apple’s business model allows it to make money by selling products and services to consumers without resorting to data mining. Apple seems to be going out of its way on the Health side to emphasize its trustworthiness. That’s a selling point competitors will have trouble matching –because data mining is the business model. More consumers are going to care about this as things move along
One reason use of personal health data technology has been so low is that while younger people are open to it they are generally healthy and don’t need to deal with their records nearly as much. But it’s been seven years since Microsoft’s HealthVault was introduced –and those same tech-embracing folks are getting older. Also, there’s been a remarkable change in the level of use of smartphones in the past few years. They’ve gone from non-existent to ubiquitous, so Apple doesn’t need to convince people to bring another device along. The passive collection of data through sensors also makes a huge difference in ease of use and accuracy of the information. (See Health tracking apps: Not yet ready to make a big impact)
Apple’s move is going to bring a lot of app developers into the market and we’ll see some pretty clever uses for Health before long. That will include general purpose apps and those for folks with specialized needs, like those who need to track specific parameters for a chronic illness
Makers of health apps and tools will all need to look to Apple Health to figure out how they fit in. The opportunities for data suppliers and vendors serving doctors and hospitals are there, too, but it will take at least a couple years to sort out the most promising approaches.