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Here’s the challenge for technology in health care: Success means that new tech also becomes too indispensable to fail. You can deal with Twitter being down, but not the loss of a device that keeps your kid’s blood sugar at safe levels.

That message was driven home in recent days by Dexcom, a San Diego company that makes sensors used by people with diabetes to measure their blood sugar. The company has been one of the biggest success stories in applying technology to health. Sales of its continuous glucose monitors climbed to $396 million in the third quarter of 2019, up 49% from a year ago. Dexcom shares have increased 264% over the past two years, giving it a market capitalization of $20 billion.


But that growth engine lurched this weekend when a key feature of Dexcom’s devices failed. One of the selling points of the monitors is that they allow people other than the person with diabetes — say, the parent of a young child — to receive alerts when blood sugar drops too low. But those alerts, a feature called Dexcom Follow, stopped working. Worse, parents who were using it to help monitor their children with type 1 diabetes did not realize that the system had stopped working.  

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