My partner is a teacher. One of their students, a sixth grade girl, was recently diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes.
The student is allowed to keep a small purse with her at all times, as it contains a smartphone that runs an app that talks to, and controls her insulin pump. The teachers at the school were briefed about the smartphone. However, there’s one part of the setup that caused problems: the pump would occasionally issue a beeping noise.
This beeping makes for a disastrous experience for a sixth grade girl. She’s at the age where social pressures really start to manifest. The pump gives something other students can latch onto to make fun of.
The teachers of the school come down hard on the other students who make fun of her. And rightly so. But my partner correctly identified problems with this:
- They aren’t always capable of being present, and
- This punishment only serves to exacerbate the issue, as it draws more attention to it.
Type 1 Diabetes is also known as Juvenile Diabetes. I wonder how much the pump app’s manufacturers considered the circumstances of their users. Not from a medical one, but a social one.
If the pump requires a smartphone to function, a priority of notifications could be created. Checking notifications on the phone is a socially normalized activity now, responding to mechanical beeps issuing from your body is not.
Segmenting alerts also creates an implicitly tiered priority of notification: If a pump issues a beep, and not the phone, there is a serious problem.
Offering preference toggles in the app about which devices communicates what when would be ideal. On top of that, I wonder if the app offers any “onboarding” features for new users.
After all, the problem is not the girl’s notifications. It’s how we, as society, react to them. She’s a sixth grade girl, life is already cruel enough.
I wonder how an app like this could help young kids learn how to navigate the world after having a pump installed. If it could provide resources and support to the pump’s recipient, their guardians, and their caregivers.
Yes, this thinking might run into HIPAA issues, but I do wonder if it was even considered at all. I'm willing to bet money that nobody with Type 1 Diabetes and an insulin pump was consulted, much less any sixth grade girls.
Far too many “smart” things fail to consider who they’re ultimately made for: people.