Managing any chronic condition can be challenging. For seniors with diabetes, it can be particularly difficult and critical to keep their sugar levels in a healthy range. For decades, the standard form of tracking was checking one’s glucose through a glucose meter, capturing the reading with pen and paper, and sharing it with a medical provider at their next doctor’s visit. While some still use this antiquated method, there has been a movement toward digitally connected glucose monitors.

New technologies are launching with the promise to make glucose testing “seamless” and “easy.” Bluetooth and cellular-enabled monitors are becoming more popular in order to support remote patient monitoring (RPM) — digitally providing virtual readings directly to providers in between office visits. Data shows that the global blood glucose meters market is expected to grow from $3.99 billion in 2021 to $4.96 billion by 2025. Recently, even smartwatch developers have been previewing glucose monitoring features that will be available in the next few years. With all of these options, how can providers, home caregivers, and patients determine which is right for them or their patients? 

Cellular vs. Bluetooth

There are two main options for digitally-connected glucose monitors: cellular and Bluetooth. When choosing between Bluetooth-enabled or cellular-enabled devices, there are various pros and cons to be considered. 

Bluetooth-enabled RPM devices can transmit data directly to a provider as long as there is a steady internet connection available. While most homes today do have a WiFi connection, there are still parts of the United States that have spotty or unreliable internet access. In fact, a recent review found that 27.6 million (22.5%) of U.S. households don’t have home internet. This can create frustration for patients and their home caregivers, a lag in data going to providers and inaccurate data trends.

An alternate option is cellular-enabled glucose monitors, which do not require any pairing of devices or a WiFi connection. These devices are simple and can require no extra steps. Instead, patients use the fingerstick and the glucose reading is immediately shared (via cellular signal) with his or her provider. Because it doesn’t require pairing to a device or app, or access to the internet, it ensures readings are accurate and timely. While there can be potential for issues with a cellular network, such as an outage, it is a small risk compared to the benefit of instantly transmitting glucose data to providers.

Simple and seamless is critical in home care settings

A recurring challenge home health care workers face is balancing administrative paperwork with time to care for their patients. According to the National Association for Home Health Care & Hospice, home health care providers spend more time on paperwork than hospital staff and more time dealing with reimbursement issues. Digitally connected glucose monitors save time and erase the headache of old-school methods of tracking diabetes patients’ levels by automatically transferring accurate data to the patients’ healthcare provider. In addition to improving time management, digitally connected glucose monitors also eliminate technical challenges. The setup of cellular-based devices is extremely easy and ready “out of the box.” With this RPM technology, both the patient and provider experience are improved to improve compliance and overall care. 

Bridging the gap between provider and patient

With cellular-enabled glucose monitors, providers have immediate access to their patients’ glucose readings and trends over time and can effectively monitor and manage their health in real-time. For patients who require home healthcare, this is a huge advantage to know their care provider can review their sugar levels and adjust medications as needed. With relevant data, physicians can work with the patient to continuously improve their health and help them stay healthy from their homes with more independence. 

Future of diabetes and home healthcare

As payers and providers continue to see the benefits of remote patient monitoring, we will see increased adoption of these tech-enabled devices. When exploring options for connected glucose monitors, ones that offer simplicity and reliability via cellular technology are often the best choice.

Casey Pittock is CEO of Smart Meter. He recently served as CEO of Udex Software, a cloud platform for the home health industry. Previously, he was president and CEO of Tunstall Americas, the U.S. division of Tunstall Healthcare Group, the world’s largest medical alarm provider. He also served as CEO at two health tech start-ups and led sales at BAM Labs, the technology powering smart beds. Casey was the founder and CEO of TelCARE Systems, which was acquired by Lifeline and subsequently by Philips.