By: Kya Fawley
Every Thursday night before she goes to sleep, Lynn Dempsky, a 42-year-old woman with type 1 diabetes, uses an Acculink modem. With the push of a button, her whole week of glucose readings is faxed to her doctor. If a follow-up is required, she hears from her doctor the next morning. Dempsky says the new modem system has improved her communication with her doctor and is helping her keep better control of her disease.
Acculink sends blood glucose monitoring information from the Accu-Chek Complete or Accu-Chek Advantage meters to doctors’ fax machines or computers. Some diabetes specialists are calling it the wave of the future.
A Doctor’s Diagnosis
“I think that eventually, it will be extremely useful for all people with diabetes,” says Paresh Dandona, a physician at the Diabetes Endocrinology Center in Buffalo, New York. Dandona has enrolled 10 of his patients, both type 1 and type 2, in a pilot program to test the usefulness of the Acculink modem.
So far, Dandona is pleased with the results. He says that his patients who use Acculink are able to communicate with him more often, and in some instances, the extra communication has led to an improvement in blood glucose levels. However, he says the best thing about Acculink is the sense of security it gives to doctors and patients.
“They’re not without communication with me at any point in time,” says Dandona. “They can have our support, when required, on a continuous basis.”
Better Contact, Better Control
Kathleen Kennedy, who has had type 2 diabetes for nine years, began using the modem for a pilot program conducted at the Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She also believes that using the new device has improved her communication with her doctor.
“I feel I have closer contact with my doctor because he has the results directly from my meter,” Kennedy says.
Kennedy faxes her blood glucose levels to her doctor before her monthly office visits and whenever she feels ill. She says her doctor usually replies in two to three days.
Dandona says using the Acculink modem system is more work for doctors, but he believes that the extra work is worth it. Both Kennedy and Dempsky believe the system has helped them improve their control.
“I know what is going on at all times,” Kennedy says.
Meters and Modems
The Complete meter can be personalized to fit individual needs and send graphs of test results, blood sugar ranges, averages and trends to doctors. The Advantage meter, however, does not have these features.
Doctors do not need special equipment to receive the information on their fax machines, but to receive it by computer, they need Accu-Chek’s Accutility software.
A Good Compromise
Dr. Jane Bridges, a diabetologist at the Welsh Diabetes Center in Vincennes, Indiana, teaches five-week courses in intensive self-management of diabetes. During her course last spring, she had 30 people try out Acculink. She says that the majority of her students liked Acculink, and she believes that using this new technology is a realistic way to get patients and their doctors to communicate more frequently.
“It’s kind of a compromise between what they did in the DCCT study [which proved tighter control of diabetes helps prevent complications] and what I can do in my busy office practice,” says Bridges. “I may not be able to see patients every month or week, and support and cheer them on, but certainly if I hear from them between visits I’m going to be interacting with them and working to bring them under control.”
Bridges adds that Acculink helps her respond faster to important patient information.
“If they want me to look at data fairly quickly, there can be no quicker way,” she says.
Although Bridges likes Acculink, she worries that patients will forget to fax their monitoring information. She is also concerned that if patients do not need a log book to show their doctors, they will not remember to write down their blood glucose levels for themselves.
“Patients could get a little lax about writing down their own data, looking at their own patterns and making their own adjustments,” she says.
Dandona says he encourages his patients to continue keeping a log book. However, he believes that the new modem system has not been used long enough for physicians to determine if keeping a log book, in addition to faxing the monitoring information, is necessary.
Better for Insulin-Dependent Patients
According to Dandona, Acculink is most useful for people with diabetes whose blood sugar levels bounce all over the place. Right now his pilot program prefers to enroll patients who take insulin.
“These patients’ blood glucose concentrations are rather fragile, and these patients need constant feedback and guidance,” Dandona says.
The modem is made by Roche Diagnostics, the company that also produces Accu-Chek meters. It costs about $85, and is available with approval of a health care provider.