The Blood Sugar Puzzle: The CareLink System Puts the Pieces Together For You
Diabetes is a chronic yet manageable malady; as such, it requires constant interaction between the person and the disease. You must pay attention to the endless flow of information produced by your various management tools.
But to interpret that morass of information is mind-boggling. As Dr. Alan Marcus, Medtronic's Director of Medical Affairs, puts it, "you are faced with a pile of puzzle pieces, but it is very difficult to assemble them into a coherent picture."
You can't step back and analyze the meaning of the information because there is no obvious pattern; all you see is a confusing amalgam of momentary bits produced by your meter, your insulin, your diet, and your lifestyle. In fact, you may be blinded to the patterns by the sheer volume of information.
Physicians also need to be able to see the blood sugar puzzle as a coherent whole in order to make informed decisions. But unless the information is already organized into landscapes that are amenable to quick and logical interpretation, they just don't have the time to separate the wheat from the chaff and then groom it all into a useful set of patterns. So they end up piecing everything together as best they can and perhaps having to use guesswork to create patterns.
That's where Medtronic's CareLink Personal Software comes to the rescue. It gathers the puzzle pieces produced by all your tools, including your pump, your meter, your continuous glucose monitor, and your diet and lifestyle elements, and it arranges them into an easily interpreted picture. By assembling all the data into tables, bar charts, and pie graphs, it provides visibility into what the mass of information actually means.
And now, the new CareLink Pro system enables your physician to retrieve your personal CareLink data from the Internet, giving your doctor the perspective to base treatment changes on real patterns. How does the system work? You register for the software, hook up your meter to your computer with a special USB cable, and then download your meter's information onto your own private site on the CareLink server.
If you have a Medtronic pump and a special meter called the Paradigm Link Blood Glucose Monitor, the pump wirelessly sends your insulin information through the meter, which then sends it on to the server. If you don't have a Medtronic pump, you don't need a Medtronic meter; the system will work with meters from several other companies as well.
You cannot manually input your insulin intake, but you can enter information about your food intake and exercise levels. Then, if your doctor has the CareLink Pro system, you can give him or her access to your private site.
Eventually, Medtronic plans to add a program to the CareLink Pro that will automatically interpret the patterns for physicians, allowing them even more time to make their treatment decisions. Meanwhile, you and your doctor can use the software to step back and really see the whole picture.
Using the system is a bit like learning to read a map, in that with practice, the patterns take on more and more meaning. But with a little time and effort, the benefits to your self-management can be great.
The personal system itself is free: all you need is a computer running Windows and connected to the Internet, Adobe Reader, and an inexpensive cable that you can buy from MiniMed or from your meter company. Then register at the CareLink website at carelink.minimed.com.
Dr. Alan Marcus, Director of Medical Affairs, Medtronic