Sensory overload

When I was in grade school, four times a year I would proudly (or not-so-proudly) bring home my report card and hand it to my parents. And four times a year, my father would remind me of the report-cards HE brought home from grade school, telling me that while letter-grades A through D would be written in blue or black ink, the F’s were always in red.

Maybe it was to keep the kids honest and to stop them from adding a vertical line and changing the F to an A, but I think it was done strictly for shock-value. (These were the days before computer-generated report cards. And, for the record, I never came home with an F).

How it must have sucked to have that attention-grabbing scarlet letter overpower everything else on the page. It just screams “failure.”

So what’s the deal with the newer D-devices that feel the need to tell us – loudly and shockingly – when something’s not right?

bgnow-36You may remember this image from a week ago. I know 36 mg/dL is low – the number alone was shocking enough. There was no need to put the number in construction-orange to reinforce the fact. Nor did it need to give me – and everyone else within earshot – an audible signal that my blood sugar was out of range (even though my meter has the beeps turned off and it’s supposed to be silent!!). Oh, and although this image is of a blood sugar of 36, the meter would have behaved exactly the same if it were a less-dangerous 63.  As it was yesterday.

Pump-63-lowI also know that 63 mg/dL is below my target. I had just read the orange-colored number off of my meter, and that’s why I didn’t even think about touching my pump to deliver a bolus. But my meter sent that number to my pump, and it, too, felt the need to beep, whine, and get its two cents in. WHY?!?

Dex-G4

Image credit: Dexcom.com

You’ve probably seen me post enough of my CGM graphs by now, and you know that I’m not using the new Dexcom Platinum G4. But I’ve read lots of blog posts from people who do, and one of the things people seem to like about it is how the BG trace changes color when it goes out-of-range — from white to yellow when it goes high, and from white to red when it’s low. There’s also a clear horizontal band that separates “in-range” from “out-of-range”. Since the band is there, what is the need to change to these warning and caution colors? Is it there to make the wearer focuses on the bad (and overlook the good)? Is it just a not-so-subtle way of saying “Listen to me, you fool! Not only is that number out of range, but it could kill you! Don’t you know that?”?

Maybe the manufacturers build these superfluous stimuli into the devices simply because they can. They have the ability to use color, the ability to beep, and the ability to be irritating. The technology is there, so why not use it?

I just have a problem with it. I can beat myself up plenty when I see a number in the 40’s or in the 300’s. I know what that means. But having my devices alert me to the fact that I’m not doing as well as I should be, yelling at me when I’ve seemingly lost control — AT THE SAME TIME I’M LOOKING AT THOSE NUMBERS ANYWAY — is where I draw the line. Not only do I find it demeaning and patronizing,, but I find it insulting.

It suggests that I, myself, can’t comprehend the severity of those numbers, and that the device has to remind me. Well, guess what: I do know. The voice in my head is sufficient. I don’t need a chorus.

And we wonder why so many PWD’s have a hard time coping with wild and crazy blood sugars.

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Posted on February 4, 2013, in Continuous Glucose Monitor (CGM), Diabetes, Insulin pump and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Another GREAT post, Scott! Very intriguing to think about it in this way… which, I’m not completely sure I have before… You’re so right!!! It’s not like we don’t know when we’re High or Low. I think you hit the nail spot on when you said the D-device companies “can, so they do.” And it just looks sexier to have color and fancy beeps instead of “boring” old medical devices (some say, apparently). I bet it’s also largely the FDA, wanting people to have these additional warnings to do something about.

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  2. I could see it being useful for children with D. They may not have enough sense to realize what a good number is when they are younger. But they will probably understand color.

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  3. somethingexotic

    I thoroughly understand and agree with your point. I do however like the color feature especially when I’m hovering near the threshold to figure out if I’ve actually crossed it or if it’s just the lack of resolution. I thought about chucking Eggy-1 a few times when it would beep to tell me that it was high or low right after I entered a reading…

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