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Monitoring Software

By David Mendosa

Last Update: December 1, 1999

Based on the number of computer programs that people have written to help us track our blood glucose levels, you might think that many of the 16 million of us in the United States who have diabetes would be using this type of software.

Use one of these programs to track trends…

Earlier this year when a magazine asked me to review the programs available to help us manage our diabetes, I knew it would be a huge assignment. But I never imagined how big it would be.

To get a handle on it I tried to find out something about each program. Eventually, I discovered that there are more than 70 of them. Now, they are all described and linked on my Web page, On-line Diabetes Resources Part 12: Software.

For my article I reviewed only the commercial programs for the Windows operating system on the assumption that these would be the best ones. But even with those limitations there are now 17 programs in that category.

Yet in spite of the availability of this range of resources, only a very small number of us use monitoring software. I think that there are several reasons why.

One is simply not knowing what monitoring software can do for you. While I'm sure that some people use these programs just because their doctor tells them to bring in a list of their numbers, that's not a very good reason. After all, you can do that in a simple spreadsheet or even by just using pencil and paper.

The real reason to use one of these programs is to track the trend of your blood glucose levels and if necessary do something about them. That something can be as simple as more exercise or a better diet. It could also mean seeing your doctor about changing your prescription for oral medication or insulin.

The charts and tables that the best of these programs have will show you if you are in control of your diabetes or if you are losing it. The charts in particular can tell you instantly how you're doing.

Some people don't use monitoring software because the blood glucose meter they use doesn't have a data port. While you can enter your blood glucose readings into many of these programs manually, that's too much work for most folks.

With a data port you just connect your meter to your computer and simply send a bunch of readings all at once. And even if your computer doesn't use Windows, there's probably a program for it. There are monitoring programs for Macintoshes, Palm Pilots, the Newton operating system, and even the HP 95 and Psion machines.

Other folks have tried one or two of these programs and have found them lacking. I have to agree that most of them have some shortcomings.

My personal favorite is Bayer's WinGlucofacts for the Glucometer Dex and WinGlucofacts XL for the Glucometer Elite XL. Essentially the same program for Bayer's two most recent meters, it is, I think, the most professional, colorful, and attractive glucose management software, including a full range of charts and graphs.

The most recent development in monitoring software is to make use of the Web. This way you don't need to download and set up any monitoring program on your computer. These on-line programs work with any meter, whether or not it has a data port.

Three Web sites do a good job of letting you manually input your blood glucose levels and then chart them. They are DiabetesResearch On-Line Glucose Monitor, MyDiabetes, and D-Net.

But none of these Web programs let you upload your numbers as easily as you can to a program on your own computer. That would be ideal. And while I haven't seen it yet, several companies tell me they're working on it.

Meanwhile, think of these programs as being a wealth of resources available to help give you better control of your diabetes by tracking and charting your blood glucose trends. Just pick a program that works with your meter or switch to a meter than has a program you like. 

The American Diabetes Association originally published this article on its Web site as one of my “About the Internet” columns.

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