I am terrible with personal software projects. At work, I have no problem getting things started and finished. But elsewhere, I’m just a bit too distracted by everything else in my life to engage in some casual programming.
But this morning, as I was putting on my socks — and checking my diabetic feet, of course — I struck upon a project that I would gladly spend at least a few evenings and weekends to get working.
Throughout the day I’ve been talking myself into writing an iPhone app to display all of the data from my pump and continuous glucose monitor. I’ve already learned a great deal from my CGM, but what I need now is a memory device that collects all (or at least most) of my diabetes data in one place, so that I can use what’s worked in the past (as well as what didn’t work so well) in order to make better decisions.
The idea behind the as-yet-unwritten software is to transfer all of the data and events from my part of Medtronic’s CareLink website — it stores my CGM sensor values, blood glucose readings, insulin boluses, temporary basals, infusion set changes, etc. — and store them on my iPod, where I can review and plot them graphically. (And if it works on my iPod Touch, it would run on an iPhone or iPad, too.)
Why do I want to do this? There are many situations that happen regularly but not quite frequently enough for me to remember what happened. What happened the last time I had Thai food? How much insulin did I give? What did I estimate the carbs to be? And what about the last time I went for a long bike ride? What temporary basal did I use? I could write all this down, but (as I’ve recently discovered) there’s a great deal of value in seeing the CGM trace surrounding the event.
So my app will be fairly small to begin with:
- Import data from a CSV file that I can download from the CareLink site.
- Plot the CGM graphs and display the insulin, BG, and pump events.
- Display details about these events. What did I enter into the pump’s bolus wizard? What did I end up doing?
That’s a first version. That will let me carry around a self-updating logbook. Journaling is something we hate to do, so why not just aggregate the data that I already produce minute by minutes?
One or two improvements would make this app truly useful. The pump and CGM have a lot of data, but they lack context. I need to be able to add a tag or two and some notes to the handful of events that I want to highlight. That’s the first step; the next is to be able to search for those events and then look at what happened.
Once I’ve got that app working, who knows what could happen?
Of course, why do I want to make this app, when I’m usually so reluctant to write software away from the office? Plainly put, I need this application to improve my self-management. Observations of daily living are among the most powerful components of managing a chronic illness, but they are a complete pain in the ass to record manually.
Clearly this is something that Medtronic should be doing. It would greatly simplify things if I could sync directly from my pump to my iPod, and I’ve already tried without success to get them to tell me the data protocol of my pump. It’s my data after all, but they won’t talk. (Hell, it would be much better if I could download directly from CareLink to my iPod rather than doing a kind of crazy two step of saving a .csv file and uploading it to my iPod.) Perhaps Medtronic already is working on such an application, but I can’t count on it. Seeing the results of my actions is so useful that I will take one for the team and start writing this application.
My ultimate goal is to share the app and the code with the world. I would like very much to make this an open source project . . . the first salvo in a “test strip rebellion” where we people with diabetes take back the data stored on our medical devices. If the medical device manufacturers won’t make these apps, we must. If the FDA is going to make it difficult for commercial ventures to produce innovative solutions, we patients will have to turn the tables; it’s true that we’ll have to accept the risk for what we do, but at least we will have what we need to improve our health.
Oh! And I will need your help. I’ve never written an iOS application. If you have some skills, I might want to ask you a couple of qustions. First up: I need recommendations for newbies making their first forays into iPhone app development.