Managing a disease means managing data. White blood-cell counts, heart rates, milligrams—whatever the metric, you and your doctor monitor it constantly. This is especially true of patients with type 1 diabetes, who must maintain a strict regimen of drawing blood, checking glucose levels, and recording them. By hand. Several times each day.
But diligence at home doesn’t always lead to better guidance at the physician’s office. “Doctors feel like people with diabetes won’t engage with our diabetes. We’ll engage, but we’re not going to write stuff down for months and bring it to you to look at for six minutes,” says entrepreneur Jeff Dachis, who has type 1 diabetes. Frustrated by the lack of actionable feedback, Dachis started, a health startup aimed at improving diabetes management. The company launched in 2015 with an app for easily syncing personal data with coaching and community support.
One Drop passed a bigger milestone in January with the release of its $100 glucose measuring kit. Like most glucometers, it includes a lance for drawing blood, test strips, and a meter to read them. Everything is clad in smooth stainless steel and tucked into a pebbled leather sleeve about the size of a wallet. Most glucometers look like a cross between a stopwatch and a portable chemo pump. But One Drop, with its sharp industrial design by, evokes the ease and luxury of those compact cocktail kits you find in gift shops.
The app and kit provide an easily used and uncommonly attractive alternative to typical glucose monitoring setups. Handsome hardware, after all, is great—but powerful only when it works in tandem with thoughtful, intuitive software. The App Store features hundreds of apps that document glucose readings and provide diet and exercise tips. But most require you to record data in one place and transfer (and analyze) it in another. Use One Drop’s hardware, and the software responds with updated charts in your health profile. The app also incorporates data from wearables to track the impact of physical activity on blood sugar. Pay a premium, and One Drop provides unlimited test strips and text message consultations with certified diabetes experts.
One Drop’s glucometer is easy to use, but it also looks good—a quality Dachis sees as crucial. “Why is it so automatic that you come to a café and take your phone out, and put it next to you?” he asks, before answering: Because it’s pretty, and gets used a lot. He figures a glucometer as attractive as your iPhone might get used more often. Diabetics who test more frequently have an easier time understanding their blood sugar, which makes the disease easier to live with. (Dachis says he tests up to 10 times a day.)
But making it pretty proved challenging. Dachis and Pensa design director Mark Prommel began with an ambitious wish list that included a sumptuous LED color screen and a petite charging port for the lithium-ion battery. Plus, they wanted reliable results above all. Glucose testing relies on a reaction between an enzyme in the test strip and an electrical current from the meter. Dachis says they selected the most reliable electro-chemistry platform available, and tailored the design of One Drop around it. But even minute details can affect performance; at one point, Dachis says they lusted after a bright chrome finish, but worried a thick coating might impair Bluetooth connectivity.
One Drop had to cede the splashy LED screen and slick charging port, but the chrome finish worked out. And One Drop made the meter and lance as small as possible. “In order to get the user experience we wanted we needed a certain kind of form factor,” Prommel says. “We couldn’t go out with a tennis ball-sized meter. We needed small, sleek, flat.” In other words, something that fits in your pocket, and is handsome enough to take out of your pocket and actually use. One Drop can’t spare diabetics from the chore of managing data, so it’s opting for the next best thing: making that chore as elegant as possible.