Medical Devices: What is CGM (Continuous Glucose Monitoring)?

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You may have heard this acronym mentioned in the medical field from time to time – and no doubt you will hear it more and more. CGM is an emerging technology that is making massive transformations to the lives of people suffering under Type 1 diabetes. This is something recently recognised globally as a now-essential tool for people to monitor their health and respond accordingly.

What is CGM?

A Continuous Glucose Monitor is a device that reads your blood sugar (glucose) readings in real-time and transmits them to a receiver, either a special device or your phone. As you would know, diabetes is the lack of ability to regulate one’s blood sugar levels. This is critical as Type 1 diabetes, the genetic type, which is more impactful on one’s health, requires constant monitoring. It has truly revolutionised diabetes care globally.

CGM’s can work in various ways. Some use an electronic sensor that works by shining a very specialist type of light onto the skin that excites glucose in the skin secretions. The sensor then measures the heat of the excited glucose particles to provide a reading. This heat is so minute that it cannot be felt yet is measured by the receiver.

Other devices may use a tiny plastic cannula that penetrates the top layer of skin and transmits a reading to the receiver.

Why this is a revolution – CGM vs Traditional

Traditional glucose monitors are far more invasive. Normally users would take a blood sample from a fingertip using a finger-prick device, which is then prepared and placed on a small test strip. A finger-prick device uses a spring-loaded lance which penetrates the skin on the fingertip, producing a bead of blood.

Typically, with diabetics routinely testing on the same area, this could create scar tissue on the finger. Furthermore, not being able to alert the person of dangerous blood glucose levels could be dangerous, with hypoglycaemia requiring another person’s help. In these situations, a CGM device could prevent the state of diabetic shock.

On the other hand, CGM devices require a patch (sensor) to be either implanted or stuck to the body – normally the arm or the abdomen – which can become uncomfortable for the user. This normally has to be changed every 7-12 days.


Most countries globally have now introduced a scheme ensuring diabetes sufferers are the beneficiaries of full subsidisation for their devices, meaning there is no out-of-pocket requirement for these people. In Australia, similar to the NDIS (National Disability Insurance Scheme) yet a lot less complicated is the NDSS (National Disability Services Scheme). This is the primary body that governs and regulates the subsidisation of diabetes devices. Australia spends over $6 billion AUD on diabetes care every year.

The United States of America clearly have the one of the largest requirements for diabetes-related expenditure of any country, with $1 in every $4 spent on healthcare being spent for diabetes. The total economic cost rose 60% in 10 years for the US. The US allows subsidisation through health insurance such as Medicare, Medicaid and more.

The United Kingdom provides Type 1 Diabetics with free devices through the NHS trust and contributes massive amounts to providing support for diabetics through the NHS.

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