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If you live in the UK, the NHS has agreed to fund the Freestyle Libre, a monitor for people on insulin therapy who have to manage sugars. See the announcement here. We use it for one of my sons with type 1 and some people with type 2 use it as well when they have to avoid low sugars or watch for when their sugars levels are high for too long.

How does it work?

You put a cannula in your arm and scan it with what my kid calls a swipe. It shows you how your sugars have been doing since the last swipe.

Pros

It’s really fast to test. I notice it especially at night because in seconds I can get my kid’s reading.

Because it’s taking a reading every few minutes you can see the sugar levels since the last swipe. If you wonder what has been happening when you’re not watching you get a good sense of it. Everyone worries about low sugars especially and it’s comforting to be able to see what went on while you were sleeping.

I spoke with one user who said that he went from testing 2 times per day to 20 times because it was so easy. Then he had a better understanding of how his food and insulin was impacting his sugars. This is good thing. Our doctor blogged about a study that says if you test more, you get results that reduce your risk of low blood sugars and long-term complications from extended highs.

Cons

If you like technology and appreciate a good iPhone or Google phone, the kit feels old. The swipe feels flimsy and ours just stopped working with the first sensor. Then it broke again with the 3th sensor. Customer service was nice and they replaced the sensor and swipe without charge, but two sensors breaking within 3 weeks of using it is pretty bad. Plus they ship replacement products from abroad so you have to wait 5 to 10 business days to receive it. Medtronic by contrast can turn around pump supplies very fast. 2 week turnaround for a replacement makes it difficult to build a lifestyle around using it when you can’t trust that it will work.

The cannula is huge. My kid doesn’t like that it draws attention to himself.

You have to carry around the swipe as well as your phone. They have an Android app that can take the reading but I haven’t tried it so I don’t know how well it works.

Your data is just stuck in the swipe. You can’t bring it in to wider conversations around your diabetes management. One of the challenges we build Mumoactive for is enabling conversations with your support around your sugar management. Maintaining sugar levels is about more than just a sugar test. You want to know how your food and insulin impacts your sugars two hours later. You want to keep track of your foods so you can know what to do the next time you go to a wedding or your kid goes to a birthday party. So it’s limited that way. We are looking at integrating Mumoactive with the Libre so the data can be pulled into a conversation. Also if they integrate with Apple Health eventually you can pull your data into your Mumo web profile automatically, like we can currently do with the Dexcom.

Verdict

Everyone manages differently. This can help people who want fast tests and to test more (if it’s working). If our kid wants to use it, I like that because it makes testing way faster and I can see if he has trended low overnight.

If you don’t want more kit and you test 8-10 times a day anyway, that can reduce your need for a CGM (constant glucose monitor) like the Libre. Plus something like Mumoactive or another tracker that suits you can often give enough information. I had to test in the middle of the night because I was worried about him going low and the charts in Mumoactive weren’t that far off from what the CGM showed.

So you decide. It’s a good thing the NHS is funding this to create options for people though.

CGM reading from the Freestyle.

The reading from Mumoactive looks pretty close.

This is the reading from the Mumoactive web profile. Still pretty close to the CGM.