Technology

A glitch in diabetes screens serves as a cautionary story for well being tech

Right here’s the problem for expertise in well being care: Success signifies that new tech additionally turns into too indispensable to fail. You possibly can cope with Twitter being down, however not the lack of a tool that retains your child’s blood sugar at protected ranges.

That message was pushed house in latest days by Dexcom, a San Diego firm that makes sensors utilized by individuals with diabetes to measure their blood sugar. The corporate has been one of many largest success tales in making use of expertise to well being. Gross sales of its steady glucose screens climbed to $396 million within the third quarter of 2019, up 49% from a yr in the past. Dexcom shares have elevated 264% over the previous two years, giving it a market capitalization of $20 billion.

However that progress engine lurched this weekend when a key function of Dexcom’s units failed. One of many promoting factors of the screens is that they permit individuals aside from the individual with diabetes — say, the father or mother of a younger little one — to obtain alerts when blood sugar drops too low. However these alerts, a function referred to as Dexcom Comply with, stopped working. Worse, dad and mom who had been utilizing it to assist monitor their kids with kind 1 diabetes didn’t understand that the system had stopped working.  

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“They’ve all of our telephones,” stated Carrie Dulius, an orthopedic surgeon who has kind 1 diabetes and who makes use of the DexCom gadget. “They’ve entry to our app. They’ve all of our emails. And but nothing was executed in an try to alert those that this was a doubtlessly harmful scenario.”

Dad and mom took to social media — after which the press — with tales of how the two-day technical glitch was making it tougher to handle their kids’s circumstances. Two dad and mom instructed the New York Occasions about realizing their cellphone app had failed solely when their kids’s blood sugar was dangerously low. One other father or mother instructed CNBC the function’s failure made him afraid to drop his daughter off at college. Comparable tales appeared on Dexcom’s social media pages.

James McIntosh, a spokesman for Dexcom, stated that firm turned conscious of the difficulty early Saturday morning. The corporate didn’t launch any updates or modifications to trigger the difficulty, however stated it seems a server overload occurred due “to an surprising system challenge that generated a large backlog.” On Monday night time, the corporate stated that the observe service had been restored to “close to regular efficiency.” Some customers would possibly nonetheless have hassle logging in; they need to strive once more and submit a request to the corporate if the issue persists.

Prospects’ anxieties weren’t allayed.

“They’re out speaking about large information and the way that is the subsequent frontier of well being care,” stated Dulius, who’s amongst those that has used the DexCom sensor with an insulin pump to create a DIY synthetic pancreas. “How they didn’t anticipate this server overload and be capable of repair it in a well timed method given what’s gone on with their firm from a monetary standpoint is fairly eye-opening. “ 

On its web site, Dexcom refers back to the sufferers who use its units as warriors. Now the corporate had higher hope it retains them on its aspect.

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