in DOW-Health, My Work

DOW Health: FreeStyle Libre

Here’s how you can be one step closer to being a Cyborg. First, have diabetes and then, get yourself a set of FreeStyle Libre.

FreeStyle Libre is designed for diabetic patients as an alternative to the traditional way for monitoring blood glucose levels. In past way, to check blood glucose level, patients had to prick their fingers with a lancet (sharp point needle) and then add a couple drops of blood onto a checking strip. This strip is then inserted into a meter, which would then give off their blood glucose level. Patients would have to do this procedure a minimum of 4 times a day (depending also on the type of diabetes) to manage levels and to reduce their risk of developing a range of diabetes-related complications.

So what FreeStyle Libre does for patients is that it eliminates the need for a fingerstick routine and with each scan, provides:

  • A real-time glucose result
  • An eight-hour historical trend
  • A directional trend arrow showing where glucose levels are headed

Freestyle Libre system consists of a small fibre which pierces the skin into the interstitial fluid, a thin layer of fluid that surrounds the cells of the tissues below your skin. It takes the glucose readings and stored in the sensor. A ‘reader’ device is passed over the sensor and the last 8 h of readings can be transferred to the reader. It is simple and discreet.

(And to sound less like a commercial:)

Think barcodes at the supermarket, but now you’re the product. A quick scan of the barcode and you get the price of the product. Similarly, a quick scan of the sensor and you get your glucose readings.

This is an image I took from their website, which you can see that besides the reader and the sensor, there’s also LibreLink, which is their app that can be used in place of the reader through NPC connection, and there’s LibreLinkUp App, which allows for your data to be shared through that online cloud system.

With that, it brings me to one of the biggest pros of this device. We all know that the world is currently in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, and having this system would mean that patients to continue to connect with healthcare professionals remotely. For diabetic patients, having their healthcare team be up-to-date with their progress means being able to strategise effectively and eventually shortening the time to achieving key clinical targets. So, by not having the virus outbreak break be a hindrance to patients recovery journey makes this device a real advantage.

Another pro point to this set-up would be the convenience that it brings. As compared to a simple scan on the phone/reader, I would believe the traditional finger pricking method to be a total nightmare- can you imagine the process of having to find a clean spot, wash your hands, sterilise the lancet, force out blood etc that many times a day? And not to mention, this process feels so intrusive! If it was me, I am not sure how much discipline it is going to take for me to keep up with it everyday. There bound to be patients out there who finds it hard to sustain this routine as well and in turn deteriorating their condition; so, having the option of eliminating the whole hassle seems like a huge plus for me!

One point of improvement could be an implementation of live feedback when glucose levels fluctuate drastically. It could simply be a visual indicator or a hepatic vibration, I think this would help patients be notified of their symptoms especially when they are distracted and can then take immediate action before situation gets worst. Such implementation would improve the device to a continuous mentoring system rather than one that only works in the flash.

I’ll be leaving out the analysis of scientific concepts and accuracy in readings because for obvious reasons that I too have no idea how to make it any better. But in conclusion, I do think the design of FreeStyle Libre is a real good example to show how much technology can improve the mundane chores of everyday life. By creating something up-to-date, something revolutionary, not only makes things so much more efficient but I assume it would also encourage patients become more engaged in their care and recovery process. FreeStyle Libre’s idea of a quick scan is undeniably life changing.