The son of a Naval Academy grad, Jason Harmon had dreamed of becoming a military pilot. He’d worked to pay for flying lessons, earning his private pilot’s license by the time he graduated high school.
But then came the sudden weight loss and blurred vision. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. He was automatically disqualified from being medically certified to fly. He was crushed.
“It took a while to figure out what else to do,” said Harmon, who eventually pursued his self-taught computer programming skills.
After he lost his software development executive post at USWeb during the tech bust in 2000, Harmon and former colleagues founded Get Real Health, a Rockville company that creates Web-based health applications for patients. As chief technology officer, he helped build its InstantPHR product, which pulls data from a patient’s fitness and food trackers, and for diabetics their glucometers, and sends it directly, in real time, to physicians.
“Being a software engineer, I am quite an analytical person. I’m always looking for the trends in a data set,” Harmon said. So tracking his own insulin data or food input – and using it to tightly control his disease – always just felt easier for him than perhaps for others. “It’s easy for me to spot these trends and make adjustments.”
Then he started thinking of others with chronic conditions who could benefit from the technology, he said.
In 1996, a new Federal Aviation Administration rule allowed pilots with well-managed diabetes to receive medical certification to fly. Harmon, who now uses his own Get Real Health online platform for tracking and sharing health data, was one of the first pilots allowed to take advantage of it.
“I was very lucky. My doctors call me a golden diabetic,” he said, pointing to the importance of real-time data. “I feel very encouraged when I see the evidence of it.”