Diabetes monitoring device a ‘world first’ for Ulster health trust

d-Nav patient John Ralph with Dr Roy Harper of the South Eastern Trust
d-Nav patient John Ralph with Dr Roy Harper of the South Eastern Trust

Hundreds of diabetes sufferers in Northern Ireland will have their risk of blindness or amputation greatly reduced with the introduction of a revolutionary blood monitoring system.

The South Eastern Trust has successfully piloted the d-Nav service and will become the first region anywhere in the world to roll out the mobile phone-size device to patients.

Up to 700 people will be offered the chance to regulate their own glucose levels – leading to more appropriate daily doses of insulin.

John Ralph from Comber has been using the d-Nav service for two years and says it has transformed his life.

The 63-year-old sales assistant said that prior to piloting the new device his insulin doses were a “guessing game” as blood sugar levels can fluctuate depending on what someone has been eating, or if they have been engaged in physical activity.

“You really need to monitor your levels on a regular basis. Being human, you don’t always check when you should check – but with this device there is a set regime on it and you need to test four times a day,” he said.

“The machine knows the time of day, it knows what meal you are expecting to eat, and tells you ‘this is the amount of insulin to take’. If you go for a walk or do something more physical than normal, that will bring your blood sugar levels down and you run the risk of ‘hypos’. Then you would start to feel dizzy, your hands begin to shake and eventually, if it’s not corrected, you could actually pass out.”

Mr Ralph added: “The longer I can keep my blood sugar as normal as possible then the less damage it’s doing to my internal organs.”

Dr Roy Harper said: “This new initiative has the potential to be hugely impactful on the lives of many people with diabetes across the world, and I am delighted that for the first time in the world, it will now be available to a significant cohort of patients across the SE trust area.”

How the service works

The Hygieia d-Nav service uses a combination of smart cloud-based technology and a small team of healthcare professionals to support the work physicians.

The new device – developed by US-based company Hygieia – uses a simple fingerprint blood test, with the smart technology then using the data to constantly revise the required insulin dose.

At present, a patient would have their daily requirements calculated in advance at a diabetes clinic appointment – waiting until their next appointment to have any difficulties addressed.

The d-Nav Insulin Guidance Service is based on technology obtained from the University of Michigan.

Hygieia describes the device as providing “personalised adjustments to enhance and simplify dosing, maximising insulin effectiveness”.