Tools to help manage your diabetes at home or on-the-go
Diabetes is a serious chronic condition that can be challenging and frustrating to manage. Fortunately, there are tools that can help.
We talked to Susan, Registered Nurse Case Manager at Community Health Plan of Washington (CHPW)–and a Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist–to learn how technology can make managing diabetes easier and more convenient.
Can technology really help?
Technology for diabetes self-care has come a long way. Tired of multiple finger sticks every day? Want to see the impact of the walk you just took? Wish you could take an A1C test without leaving home? You’re not alone, and new tools are making these things possible.
For example, there are continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) devices, insulin pumps and “smart” insulin pens, and, coming soon, there will be an at-home hemoglobin (Hgb) A1C home testing kit. These tools provide data that can help you make decisions about your diabetes self-management in real time and without added doctor visits or significant out-of-pocket expenses.
Data is like a window into how your body reacts to changes in activity, stress, medication, and nourishment. I hope that more people can use data to improve their health, resulting in increased quality of life, less complications, and more joy and freedom to live their best lives.
– Susan G., RN, BSN, CDCES, IHC, Registered Nurse Case Manager at Community Health Plan of Washington
Continuous glucose monitoring
Continuous glucose monitoring (CGM) can help with Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes self-management. CGM has become a common tool for individuals who take 3-4 shots of insulin per day or have severe, unpredictable hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and hyperglycemia (high blood sugar). It can be helpful to those struggling to lower their A1C or trying to better balance medication, food, and exercise.
How does it work?
Instead of finger sticks, with CGM you use a reader device or smartphone to get instant, painless blood sugar readings from a tiny sensor. There is less discomfort and more information.
An ultra thin, flexible sensor is inserted just beneath the skin, usually on the upper arm, and secured with a nearly unnoticeable dressing. A transmitter is then attached so the sensor can send information to your reader or smartphone. Depending on the type of CGM you choose, you replace the sensor every 7-14 days, with or without assistance from your pharmacist.
Two popular CGMs used by our members are:
- Freestyle Libre or Libre 2 – Position the reader over the transmitter to get a reading any time. No calibration needed.
- Dexcom 6 – Automatically records your blood sugar levels throughout the day; no manual scan required. Shows trends and alerts you if your blood sugar drops quickly. Can be paired with a compatible smart device (e.g., smartphone) if desired.
Each CGM kit comes with a reader device included, and your doctor or pharmacist can help you learn how to use it.
How does it help with my diabetes?
Using data from CGM tends to improve health outcomes and A1C. Why? Because you have access to much more information to guide your decisions and care. You can easily check your levels and trends in real time throughout the day—without finger sticks.
A CGM device is different from a conventional blood glucose meter, which captures a “snapshot” of your blood sugar a few times a day. CGM is more like a GPS navigation system that tells you exactly where you are at any given time. It offers multiple readings–up to 288 times per day!
Knowing what’s happening in your body is empowering. For example, the information you get from a CGM can help you:
- Decide how to use exercise, food choices, and medication adjustments to keep your blood sugar in a healthier range
- Prevent severe blood sugar highs and lows, increasing your safety
- Lower your risk of developing diabetes complications that can affect your eyes, heart, nerves, or kidneys
Members commonly use CGMs to monitor their blood sugar more closely during pregnancy, when living alone, while traveling, or when working in high-risk situations like operating heavy machinery.
Who’s eligible for CGM? How can you access this tool?
CGM is a good tool to consider if you:
⬜ Have Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes
⬜ Take 3 or more insulin injections per day or use an insulin pump
⬜ Have severe high and low blood sugars or hypoglycemic unawareness
⬜ Qualify for Medicare, Medicaid, or both
Could CGM help you or someone you love? We can help. CHPW members can contact their Primary Care Provider, Endocrinologist, Case Manager, Health Coach, or our Customer Service team to see if they qualify for a free or low-cost CGM.
Not a member yet? Reach out to our Customer Service Team and let them know you’re interested in becoming a member and accessing a free or low-cost CGM.
You can reach CHPW Customer Service at 1-800-440-1561opens phone dialer (TTY: 711), Monday through Friday, from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Talk to your doctor if you or someone you know needs help managing diabetes. If you’d like to know more about the support available to CHPW members with diabetes, or want more general information about the condition, please see: