Small Enough to be Wrapped in the Palm of Your Hand, Yet Life-Changing: Feedback on Our Home-Monitoring Glucometers

I just plug the glucometer into my phone after connecting to the internet and opening the app. In a matter of two to three minutes, I’m done with the entire process and I have my results

Diabetes remains a prevalent killer disease. WHO lists it as one of the leading causes of death today, globally. Patients however live long and healthy lives when the disease is detected early and blood glucose levels managed.

With such information, you would expect that measures to flatten the curve, and vigilance against this disease, are upheld beyond reproach. Or that the myths on Diabetes would be demystified. On the ground, however, that’s not the case, as Dr. Brian Kibe of Focus Hospital tells us.

“Diabetes is very common in Kenya and the world at large. However, most people live with it without knowing, and they start taking measures only when symptoms strike and the doctor recommends a change of lifestyle.”

Do you know your current blood sugar levels?

Ilara Health: Why we exist

At Ilara Health, one of the values we wear like a badge 24/7, is remembering why we exist. And here’s why we exist: To provide affordable technology-powered diagnostics for Africa. Health care has for long had disparities, with the middle and low-income earners being unable to access even basic blood tests.

While we have introduced game-changing point-of-care devices to the market, like the Butterfly iQ and Hematology Analyzer among others which have now made affordable diagnostics accessible even to small clinics in urban and peri-urban settings, we’re just getting started.

Today, we pull back the curtain to introduce our glucometers that are in the piloting stage. These devices enable home monitoring of blood glucose levels, and consultation at the convenience of the patient’s home, without having to go to the doctor all the time. You test yourself, upload the readings, which then reflect on your doctor’s tablet. Your doctor then gets in touch, with medical advice based on the results.

Welcome to a tech-powered era, where improved healthcare is your right.  

Feedback on Ilara Health’s home monitoring glucometers

Three weeks ago we partnered with Focus Hospital, nestled within Nairobi’s Githurai 45 area, to provide glucometers to a few patients. On Saturday, we had a chat with Mary Wanjiku, where she talked us through her experience monitoring her blood glucose levels from home, and uploading the results for the doctor.

I test myself from wherever I am and my doctor can see the results from his end

Mary, a forty-five-year-old businesswoman, lives in Githurai 45. She runs an electronics shop at Riverside.

For the last three weeks, she has been using our glucometer twice a day; in the morning, and in the evening.

“Are you happy that you can now monitor your glucose levels from home?”

“Yes I am, you wouldn’t believe how better my life is now. Things have changed,” she says.

“What has become better? Do you mind sharing?”

“To help you understand, I will first tell you how things used to be before I was given the glucometer. I would visit the hospital three times a week, for a blood glucose level test. It was such a hustle, given it meant leaving my shop for a while to commute to the hospital. But I had to because my health is a priority. Since three weeks ago, however, I do not have to come to the hospital. I test myself from wherever I am and my doctor can see the results from his end. We communicate, and he advises me on what to do. I only go to the hospital when my glucose levels look bad and I need medication.”

Mary also says that this arrangement has helped her shave costs that came with her frequent commute to the hospital.

At her age, she tells us that she is not tech-savvy, and that prompts me to ask whether it has been challenging to use our glucometer.

“Not at all. At first, I considered it complicated but decided to try altogether. I wasn’t sure I could manage on my own. Later, I would discover that it is very easy. I just plug the glucometer into my phone after connecting to the internet and opening the app. In a matter of two to three minutes, I’m done with the entire process and I have my results.”

The thought of a prick to draw blood flashes in my mind. I confess to her that I fear injections, before asking her about pricking herself.

She laughs, heartily, and simply asks me, “Have you seen the device? You just place it on your fingerpad and press it. You won’t see the needle. You’ll only feel a slight prick and that’s it. Very easy and fast. You get your results and go about your business.”

Here, Mary is talking about the lancing device that comes with the glucometer.

The glucometer has also helped her be conscious of what foods she eats.

“Whenever the levels are not normal, I note the foods I’ve been eating and make a deliberate change to ensure a healthy diet, and hence manage my blood glucose levels. If the doctor advises that I go to the hospital, or when I need medication, that’s when I go.”

“Would you recommend this home monitoring arrangement to others?”

“Yes, I would. Anything easy to use and monitor your health is a good thing, for anyone. And it’s convenient. There are times I test my blood glucose levels even when away from home. Because the glucometer is very small, can be wrapped into the palm of your hand. A small thing to carry around yet it brings better health care.”

My wish is to see the glucometers rolled out indiscriminately to a wider scope

Eager to hear from the doctor at Focus Hospital, I am invited into his office after having a chat with Mary. Dr. Brian Kibe tells me that diabetes is very common not only in Kenya but also in the world. He is sad that most people only begin caring about it after doctors tell them that they are in danger.

“Is it true that diabetes only affects the old?” I ask.

“That’s a myth I’ve heard with many. Diabetes can affect anyone. Type 1 is mostly genetic while type 2 is predominantly acquired from lifestyle.”

Dr. Kibe then walks me through his experience using our glucometers for home monitoring.

“Once patients test themselves in their homes and send the results, the readings and details of the patient reflect on my tablet which has been provided by Ilara Health. I can monitor the changes from previous readings, after which I place calls to the patients. I want to know why there has been a change, for example. Did they eat before testing, and what did they eat? Are they taking their medicine? If I determine that I have to see them, I schedule an appointment. If everything is okay, I encourage them to keep up the good management, and I’m also in a position to offer medical advice.”

He then proceeds to reiterate what Mary shared with me, that the home monitoring arrangement has reduced the number of times patients have to physically see a doctor, thereby cutting back on money for transport, and saving time. He adds, “When I think of these tech-powered glucometers, I see a world with better and convenient health care. My wish is that they be rolled out indiscriminately to a wider scope.”

Ilara Health is currently piloting glucometers among other point-of-care devices. The glucometer comes with strips and a lancing device. It is easy to use from wherever, with the results e-connecting you with your doctor. Visit our website today to see other diagnostics devices that we have already rolled out. 

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