Hacking Diabetes

ePatient advocate and diabetes patient, Kerri Sparling

ePatient advocate and diabetes patient, Kerri Sparling

Today is Diabetes Action Day and we’ve recruited SixUntilMe blogger Kerri Sparling to talk about “hacking diabetes.”  We’d like to give the ePatient perspective and spark discussion with our Sermo physicians.

Patients consult with their doctors for information on managing, fine-tuning, and making sense of their medical diagnosis, but sometimes a push from peer-to-peer patient connections helps patients actually implement that advice in their real lives. As a person who has been living with type 1 diabetes for twenty-seven years, I’ve worked closely with both my medical team and my patient community in order to live well with diabetes in the context of my actual life.

Recently, at a presentation at a diabetes conference, I spoke with a group of physicians and patients alike, sharing and crowd-sourcing some tips, tricks, and hacks that people with diabetes are using to streamline this cumbersome disease. A lot of the discussion was built around integration of diabetes devices.  The technology we have available to us as patients is amazing, but if we don’t wear it and use it, it’s useless.

Overall, life with diabetes involves a long list of daily “to do’s,” and crossing all those necessary items off the list each day requires some finessing. Here are a few tips that people with diabetes have shared in the past, including some ideas from healthcare professionals:

  • We talked about the Dexcom-in-a-glass routine to magnify the high and low alarms at night. Some patients mentioned putting loose change in the same glass to further amplify the rattle of their continuous glucose monitor.
  • The CGM/earthquake application hack repurposes an iPhone app, iSeismometer, to amplify a dexicom vibration. Parents of children with diabetes and adults are both using this hack often.
  • Keeping things “stuck,” in terms of devices, always generates some good discussions.  Everyone has their favorite tapes/stickies (some of mine are Opsite Flexifix, Tegaderm, Skin Tac). I also have a Toughpad solution I’ve used for my CGM sensor rashes – hopefully this will help some of your patients experiencing something similar.
  • A few physicians have shared tips they picked up from their patients.  “One of my patients had a tough time remembering to take her nighttime insulin dose, so I suggested that she tape the pen to her toothbrush.  It’s something she uses every night before bed!”
  • Another patient shared with me about the time she swapped her basal dose for her fast acting dose.  After spending the whole night eating, she vowed “Never again!”  To help remind her to note the difference between her two insulin pens, she wraps brightly colored duct tape around her fast-acting insulin, so she is forced to note the difference.
  • Wearability is always a top priority. Two of my favorite tips are the pump-in-a-trouser-sock trick and my wedding day hack that included an insulin pump in my wedding dress pocket and a special bouquet that held a quick dose of sugar.
  • One PWD mentioned a trick she used to help keep from double-dosing her Lantus injection. “I bought a large pill organizer and put one pen needle in each day’s slot. I use those pen needles for my nightly Lantus dose and it’s a great way to safeguard against double-dosing.”
  • A few favorite diabetes management apps are MySugr and Diasend.

Whether we’re talking about how to best (read: most comfortably and practically) use diabetes devices or highlighting the need for peer-to-peer support, the “diabetes in context” discussions are important because diabetes does not exist in a vacuum.  I hit personal diabetes management stride when the tools – glucose meters, insulin pumps, CGMs, logbooks, medications – are in my control and fit into the flow of my life.

Better integration makes for better health outcomes. How can patients and physicians work together to make diabetes-and-life integration more seamless and less intrusive?

What tips do you offer to your patients to help make the tools of diabetes easier to use?  We’d love to see some discussion in our comments section and also inside Sermo.  Please join us here or inside if you’re an M.D. or D.O.

Kerri Sparling has been living with type 1 diabetes for over 27 years, diagnosed in 1986.  She manages her diabetes and lives her life by the mantra “Diabetes doesn’t define me, but it helps explain me.”

Kerri is a passionate advocate for all-things diabetes. She is the creator and author of Six Until Me, one of the first and most widely-read diabetes patient blogs, reaching a global audience of patients, caregivers, and industry.  Outside of her blog, Kerri’s work can be found at diaTribe, Animas, and in diabetes outreach like JDRF’s Countdown magazine, in addition to her extensive diabetes YouTube channel.  Well-versed in social media and its influence on patients, Kerri presents regularly at conferences and works full-time as a writer and consultant.  Her first book, Balancing Diabetes (Spry Publishing), was released in Spring 2014.

Kerri and her husband, Chris, live in Rhode Island, USA with their daughter.  She can be reached by email at kerri@sixuntilme.com, or on Twitter at @sixuntilme.


  1. Lindsay says

    Good post! I had a pump pocket in my wedding dress, too :-)

    I’ll share one of my own diabetes hacks (for the ladies): When you’re going out in a form fitting dress where you’d rather not have a “pump bulge,” wear a pair of Spanx and stick the pump somewhere down in the Spanx (inner thigh usually works for me). If the Spanx are sufficiently tight, they will hold the pump in place and nobody will ever see it. Cheers!

  2. says

    It’s a sad state of affairs when you know you have to remember to take your medication, but don’t or can’t remember if you already have, but it’s so easy to do. Both my parents take pills for their diabetes and use the method of the large daily pill boxes to make sure they take everything they need to take every day. You have to do whatever works for you.

  3. says

    Great Idea!

    Both my parents take pills for their diabetes and use the method of the large daily pill boxes to make sure they take everything they need to take every day

    I see you… Success! :)

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