Can an Apple Watch Check Blood Sugar?
Health and technology form a stronger relationship each passing year. New medical devices paired with technological platforms create amazing opportunities for patients with diabetes. Dexcom is a company that creates glucose monitoring systems (CGMs) for patients with diabetes in order to manage diabetes in a simpler, more convenient way. This relatively new technology is being pursued by the giant tech company, Apple, to create a watch that monitors blood sugar.
Apple and Dexcom collaborated to use Dexcom’s CGM technology and Apple’s information system’s platform to collect, display, and send glucose monitoring data to the Apple Watch. Once displayed on the Apple watch, the patient can easily view blood glucose levels in real-time. This is an amazing advantage for patients with diabetes who can now respond in a proactive way instead of reacting to a negative situation. This is an exciting time in healthcare technology where medical devices are being created and distributed to the masses at lower costs.
Features of the Dexcom Tool
The Dexcom system features a small sensor that is placed underneath the skin. The sensor is connected to a transmitter, which sends data, sits atop the skin and is fastened on top of the sensor. This data is transmitted wirelessly to a system receiver. In this case, the Apple Watch. For example, the patient wears the small Dexcom CGM sensor on his or her abdomen, which measures blood glucose levels every 5 minutes. Those glucose readings are then sent to a smart device such as an iPhone, which can then display the information on an Apple Watch. This allows patients to visualize how their glucose measurements are trending up, down, or are maintaining at goal levels.
The Dexcom sensor that measured blood glucose levels is a small metal probe (wire). The sensor has a special coating encapsulating it so that the body’s immune system will not attach it as a “foreign” body. The coating does wear off, which yields patients to change the sensor about every 7 days. The sensor must be replaced for safety reasons. The glucose sensor works by generating small electrical signals that are translated into glucose levels. Those levels are then sent to the transmitter to be stored and sent to smart devices.
People often wonder if the Dexcom system uses a needle? The answer is no, it does not. The Dexcom system uses a “one touch” applicator that easily inserts a small sensor just beneath the skin to allow continuous blood glucose monitoring. The “one touch” applicator is a small wired sensor that is placed just beneath the skin. The glucose sensor continuously measures glucose values (for example every 5 minutes) in the interstitial fluid (the fluid around the cells). The sensor is very small and slim and therefore does not cause pain to the patient. The data is transmitted to smart devices, such as an Apple Watch in real-time. This means that if a patient is becoming hypoglycemic, they will know instantly and be able to respond appropriately, instead of having their blood sugar “crash” and have to play “catch-up”. The ability to display continuous blood glucose levels onto an Apple watch or other smart device is revolutionary to diabetics and the field of medicine.
The Apple Watch uses an app that can monitor blood glucose levels. The watch itself does not have a sensor on it to monitor blood glucose levels, but rather collects the data from the Dexcom device and displays it on the watch for convenience, safety, and around-the-clock monitoring. Patients must only look down at their watch to see current blood glucose levels. Amazing!
Will Medicaid Pay for a Dexcom?
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) will cover some continuous glucose monitoring systems (CGMs), starting with the Dexcom G5. CMS has deemed certain therapeutic continuous blood glucose meters (CGMs) as durable medical equipment and thus are eligible for coverage. According to Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, CGMs are listed under “Medicare Part B”. Medicare will cover “durable medical equipment” which is defined as equipment that:
- Can withstand repeated use
- Can be used for at least 3 years
- Is primarily and customarily used to serve a medical purpose
- Is generally not useful to a person in the absence of illness or injury
- Is appropriate for use in the home.
Medicare will not cover all CGMs because they are not considered to serve the medical purpose of making diabetes treatment decisions, but are rather adjunctive devices to complement, not replace, information obtained by blood glucose monitors.
Criteria Where a Medicare Patient Might Qualify for a Dexcom
The new approval letter from the FDA allows Medicare to pay for CGMs that replace blood glucose monitors. Medicare will approve patients for Dexcom CGMs if patients require a medical need to continuously test their glucose levels. Which, for most diabetic patients, is a medical necessity.
The U.S Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services cover the Dexcom G5 CGM system. This system is compatible with the Apple Watch. Meaning, you can get the Dexcom CGM system that connects to the Apply Watch from Medicaid, if eligible.
Advantages of Continuous Glucose Monitoring
Systems like “Continuous Glucose Monitors” (CGMs) eliminates the need for fingersticks. CGMs are another option for patients who must check blood glucose levels frequently.
CGMs use an insertable, tiny wire-like sensors placed underneath your skin to monitor blood glucose levels continuously. After the initial sensor placement, there is virtually no pain, which is a huge advantage to most patients.
Other advantages of CGMs are the applications and compatibilities with smart devices. These monitors can send around-the-clock data to health care providers and up to 10 other people that the patient choses in the application system. This is an amazing tool for clinicians and patients.
CGMs are accurate, consistent, and reliable. Most Type 1 diabetics use CGMs. However, you should check your blood sugar using the fingerstick method on occasion to calibrate the device and confirm blood glucose readings form the CGM are accurate. When fingersticks are needed, PipLancets are encouraged to reduce pain with each needle stick. Using PipLancets is beneficial, as they reduce painful fingersitcks.
Out of the 29 million diabetics in America, only a handful will have insurance that covers the Dexcom system. Until this technology becomes more affordable, the fingerstick method will be the most accurate and ubiquitous system. Pip Lancets makes fingersticks more convenient and less painful, improving the quality of life for Diabetics.
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