Here is my “jailbreak” experience with the Libre for all of two hours so far. (Yes, I am that excited, I had to share immediately!)
CONTEXT: I am a T1D using a pump and synced CGM, fairly tech-savvy, very hands-on in my management and always looking to learn more. I first heard about Abbott’s Freestyle Libre about two years ago, but figured that since I live in the US, I’d have to wait until it becomes available here. Luckily, my best friend lives in Sweden and, after hearing me complain about the wait, recently discovered that one does not need a prescription to buy it there. So I got two sensors and NO reader (which is what I requested). I had already found out that with the help of an app which works on Android phones one could manage without an extra reader piece. (I use a Google Nexus; while I am not 100% sure, I believe that what allows these apps to by-pass the need for an Abbott reader is the specific NFC technology that Android phones use and so this reader-less set up is probably not possible on another type of cell phone.)
INSERTION: I only had the instructions in Swedish (which I do not read), but the pictures were clear enough and it seemed easier than inserting my pump site or regular CGM. The “inserter device” is incorporated into each “pod” (inserter+site) you get, so there is no extra piece you need for that. I saw for sure there is a needle that introduces the sensor inside your skin, but the pricking feeling was so negligible that, if I hadn’t seen, I would have wondered how exactly the insertion happened. Totally quick and painless.
APPS (in lieu of the Abbott reader): In preparation of this experiment, I had already downloaded and familiarized myself with Glimp. (An unnecessarily busy app that allows you to record all kinds of food- and insulin-related details which I have no interest in doing, but which – critically – uses the mentioned NFC (near-field communication) technology to “hear” the sensor when you put the back of the phone, with the app open, near it.) It vibrated in recognition of the sensor when I first tried to get a reading, but it did not produce one. I looked it up again online and discovered that the sensor must be initialized first, which this app cannot do.
It turned out one needs another app for that (or an Abbott reader, which was not something I am planning to get). Thankfully the same developer, CTAPP Software, had figured out that their users might be up to the same plan as me and have created another little app, Glimp S, which does NOTHING BUT new Libre sensor initializing. A little inefficient, but nonetheless – yey! I hadn’t just wasted $165 (that was the cost out of pocket for the two pods and delivery within Sweden). Or so I thought…
I downloaded it quickly but the first attempt to use it on the sensor gave me an error (impossible to understand in meaning since the developer is based in Italy and their use of English is a little… not idiomatic enough and as a result, hard to follow). I was starting to despair, thinking that Abbott had outsmarted me after all, but… I decided to try the first / last resort of anyone who has worked in IT: reboot the machine. And it worked!!!
Upon restarting my phone, and trying again to get the sensor to “flash” to its back with Glimp S open, I got the message that my sensor was already initialized. Phew, good news. Then, in Glimp, I finally was able to produce the first value from it. And have been “flashing” ever since…
ACCURACY: With so few values so far, it is obviously hard to tell, but the current levels of the Glimp readings, my Medtronic CGM and my Bayer Contour Next meter all seem to be tracking each other incredibly closely.
GETTING A FULL SET OF VALUES: Many people on various forums complain that they are not interested in using something like the Freestyle Libre if they are not getting the “continuous values” out of it. Well, while it is important to understand that this is NOT a continuous glucose monitor (and so will not alert you when crossing any threshold values), you CAN in fact see the values and resulting trend lines on the Glimp directly + download all the once-a-minute values the sensor captures for further analysis.
To do that, you need to use the Options > Remote glucose monitoring > Connect to Dropbox (or Nightscout, but I don’t use that so can’t speak to it) and allow your Dropbox account to create a folder for Glimp where a bunch of CSV files will be automatically created. Then, each time you flash-read, the relevant files will be re-written and if you open the only one you really care about, GlicemiaMisurazioni.csv, you will see the “internal” readings for every minute of the sensor’s life. It’s not the most user-friendly presentation, but then you can upload those values in whatever BG management system you prefer and see your pretty trend lines, averages, etc. there.
Remember what I said about the Glimp app being overly dense, with entry fields for meter values, which part of which finger you pricked, weight, food, activity, calories, lancets, needles, strips, whether you bled, other notes and injections (spot and amount)? These are the sorts of things that would be written into the other files created on Dropbox if you enter them in the app on the phone. I do not see myself using any of that extra junk, especially considering that 1) most of it is rather irrelevant for a pump user and 2) I have various other apps that record the small portion of these things I do care about.
So there, this is my immediate experience and while I do not think it’s necessarily something a lot of people would do the same way I describe, I imagine it might be interesting and educational for at least some of you.
Off to do another flash-read!