Going wireless with diabetes treatment

Going wireless with diabetes treatment

Summary: Diabetes is running rampant in the U. S., and treatment for the disease is evolving. Glucose meters and insulin pumps are now wireless, allowing hands-free operation 24/7.

TOPICS: Wi-Fi, Networking

Diabetes is a horrible disease with long-term ramifications for those afflicted. The affects on the human body of glucose levels that remain out of control for extended periods can be devastating. Those with diabetes can (and should) go to great lengths to fight the disease with every tool at their disposal. This now includes using insulin pumps that can wirelessly connect to glucose level monitors, allowing for on-the-fly doses of insulin that mimics the operation of the human body.

I was first diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes a decade ago. Type 2 diabetes now afflicts over 20 million Americans, and treatment can vary from simple diet control to multiple injections of insulin daily. I have been in the insulin injection club for years, and after discussions with my healthcare provider I am considering entering the world of the "pumpers." These are the diabetics using an insulin pump 24/7 to keep total control over their glucose level, the best way to minimize long-term complications caused by diabetes.

What does this have to to with covering mobile technology? Plenty, as my research into insulin pump technology demonstrates. Insulin pump treatment consists of two parts: the pump itself, a highly calibrated device the size of the pager of old, and glucose monitors which keep an eye on the internal blood levels at all times. These two work together through wireless communications, in a totally mobile configuration. You probably interact with folks using insulin pump technology every day, and just don't know it.

While the insulin pump itself can be (and usually is) worn under clothing to hide it, there are glucose meters that can pair up to the pump wirelessly. These can be simple, like the meters used with the finger prick method for measuring glucose in the blood, that send the metered results to the insulin pump. Insulin dosage is adjusted appropriately based on the measured results in real-time, resulting in insulin treatment much like that of the human body. Some pumps can constantly monitor the glucose blood level in real-time and make adjustments automatically, much like the human body.

Some of these glucose meters can serve as remote controls over the insulin pump. The user can leave the pump wherever it is situated and do everything needed via the remote meter. These use Bluetooth to provide two-way communications between the two gadgets. That shows how far this mobile healthcare technology has come, when we realize they are just gadgets. Highly specialized gadgets to be sure.

Just about all modern glucose meters and insulin pumps can connect to a laptop or computer via USB to upload recorded information. This provides detailed tracking by the user, useful for determining what is happening with the diabetic's all-important glucose level. Some of these software solutions can be remotely accessed by the healthcare provider to make proper adjustments to the treatment from afar.

I am close to determining what equipment I will be using to treat my diabetes, but nothing is finalized yet. I can use all of the advice I can get with the complicated decision process concerning the gear, so please leave a comment in the TalkBack section if you can. I am particularly eager to hear what pumps and meters others might be using, and how well that is working out.

Topics: Wi-Fi, Networking

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  • Aren't you a little worried that wireless units could be hacked?

    Not that there's a big following of "medical device hackers" out there, still you're entrusting your life to WiFi.
    William Farrell
  • pumping...

    James...I am a T1 but did daily injections for 12 years and pumping for the last 2...it was a decision I'll never regret. It can be a little overwhelming at first to get 'dialed in' but with patience I think you will be very happy. Making a decision on a pump can be tough. I really was on the fence between the omnipod and animas ping. I ended up going with the animas ping because I did not like the idea of throwing away the pumping mechanics every other day and not being able to refill inbetween. On the animas depending on how many units I use I can stretch it out w/o needing to change my inset every 2 days...stretch it out 3-4 days sometimes (although follow your own doctors instructions)...animas allows me to keep the same inset and just refill the cartridge part...do your homework! The ping I have had no problems with at all in 2yrs and the customer service is wonderful. The tandem pump is coming out now as well and that one is pretty slick! =) Good Luck!
  • Here's a POV from a non-diabetic person, but is with someone who is

    my bf is a T1 diabetic and he's been a pumper for about 10 years now. He claims it's the best thing because 5 insulin shots a day wasn't worth it. He has the Animas Ping and i'll tell you the wireless aspect is worth it (and you don't have to worry about anyone cracking it because it's bluetooth). When he gets sick or is sleeping, etc , I can check the sugar and adjust the insulin level without disturbing him. It has its annoyances too - I've seen his levels get very high because the tube all of the sudden will be occluded (or the cannula goes bad) within a day (he changes it every 3-4 days). So I'd always have a spare infusion set on hand. Another product out there called a Dexcom - yea that's the biggest joke every and really is unreliable for even in-between monitoring. It needs calibrated every 12 hours with a finger stick test AND within a few hours its completely off.
    • Dexcom...

      @JT82 My wife is T1 and loves her Dexcom CGM. She uses the OneTouch Ping system as well and loves it. It gives her much better control over her dosing and the system trickles the insulin she needs throughout the night so she doesn't have to worry about waking up with numbers that are through the roof.<br><br>She also just got the Dexcom CGM a little while ago and we're both loving it. It is absolutely a luxury and doesn't take the place of doing things like finger pricking, but it does give you a visualized arch to follow and teaches you better habits for bolacing (sp?). Its also already paid off immensly by providing her doctor with a new wealth of information and statistics about her numbers. It takes some time and work to calabrate, but ultimately its a handy if not necessary tool to have.
  • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

    I would be inerested in the co$t of this equipment. I am a type 2 without insurance. All my healthcare decisions must be based on finances.
    • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

      @bmtman I'm interested in the cost as well and I'm curious if they make a device that continuously monitors glucose levels as the whole 4x/day finger pricking gets really old...
    • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

      @bmtman I'm not a doctor or a health professional but my T1 wife had to purchase her Ping system without insurance. It ran around $3,800 for all the equipment, then its about $460 every month (or more depending on how long you can go) for replacement tubing, sites, needles, etc.

      The CGMs from Dexcom run in the $1,800 price range, however we recently got insured and that dropped to $300 for us. That also requires replacement components be purchased every 3 months at the cost of around $400 (once again, that depends on how often you use it).

      I'll restate, i'm not a professional. These are from our experience. You may find them cheaper/more expensive in your area/through your employer.
  • Insulin for type 2 diabetics

    As an Internal Medicine physician I can't help point out some issues that are non-technical. Most type 2 diabetics don't need insulin and don't need a pump because they are generally easy to control with long acting insulins such as Lantus. This is quite different from type 1 diabetics who are often labile and difficult to control. Another important issue is that insulin therapy causes weight gain so over time the weight and the insulin dose goes up. The best course (if possible) is metformin, diet and exercise.....REH
  • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

    I've been pumping for the last 5 years, and started with the Animas (before Ping) and moved on to the Medtronics Minimed Parasigm with CGM. It's great to have the two functions in a single unit. At the time I got it no one else offered that. Any pump, even without CGM, offers a HUGE improvement in BS control. I went from A1C of 8.5 down to 6.7. I change the infusion set every 3 days, if I go to 4 days, BS starts to rise. The wireless connectivity from the CGM sensor to the pump could be stronger, but if the pump and transmitter are on the same side of your body, it works great. You can also upload data from the pump to the minimed website where you can run many different reports to check on your trending to allow for intelligent adjustments to the pump settings. I won't advocate one brand over the next, that's a very personal decision, but life with a pump and CGM is much easier than a syringe and meter alone.
  • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

    I have been T1 for 7 years as a result of pancreatitis and have used a pump the entire time. I use the Medtronic Minimed Paradigm pump with the Medtronic OneTouch UltraLink Monitor. When checking your glucose levels with the monitor, it will send the numbers to the pump wireless. They also have the real-time glucose monitor that is a 2nd insert that monitors your glucose levels every 5 minutes and sends the data to the pump. The pump shows a graph going up or down depending on what is happening. I have chosen not to do the real-time monitor because I did not want the extra insert and double the cost of supplies. It also requires a lot of adjusting because the finger prick vs the insert gives different readings - sometime as much as 20 points. Someday that technology will get better and maybe I'll jump on board, but for now not it's not for me. By the way I am very active and run marathons, triathlons and officiate high school and college sports. When doing those things I remove my pump because the physical activity will keep the blood levels at normal levels if you do it right. So with some practice with the pump settings you will be able to keep your diabetes in check and stay healthy. The most important part is eating right and exercising. Good luck.
  • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

    Two things:

    1) There is a lot of research emerging that shows type 2 diabetes can be reversed through the adoption of a low calorie diet (Yes, reversed. No, not a controlled calorie diet, an extremely low calorie diet used for a few months seems to reverse type 2 diabetes). Google/Bing 'low calorie diet cures type 2 diabetes' and then perhaps discuss it with your health care provider. As long as the diet is healthy and not harmful I would think it worth a try.

    2) About the pump. While I can't make an equipment suggestion, I worked for a life insurance company and often (very often) I would find that people with diabetes would not be insurable but one time I did have a client that was on an automated pump (much lower tech than what you are describing) and because of the pump the underwriters approved the insurance.

    The point, the pump makes a big enough difference in long term prognosis that insurance statisticians and insurance underwriters note the improvement. I would say you should confidently go for it (the pump). Your family will thank you later.

    Good Luck with it.
  • Type 1 since I was 13 years old.... (30 years ago!)

    I've been using a Medtronic pump for more than 10 years. It's given me the ability to have a much more flexible lifestyle than I had with daily multiple injections. The pump allows you to give yourself a dose easily any time you need it. I can basically eat anything that I want (like a "regular" person) as long as I take enough insulin for it. When I started on the pump, my doctor told me that had to be careful and practice the same self-control that "regular" people have because having been on a restricted diet for so long, I could have easily gone overboard.<br><br>I am now on my 3rd pump. The first one stopped working after about 6 years, but the second one has been going strong ever since. The only reason why I upgraded to the new pump this year was so that I could start the continuous glucose monitoring system. I really like how everything is networked together. It's very convenient to have the blood glucose meter transmit data to the pump. The pump has a "Wizard" that then calculates how much insulin I need based upon my blood sugar and the amount of carbs in my meal. The continuous glucose monitoring system is not perfect, but it does let me see trends and react to highs/lows before it gets too bad. This reduces wide swings in my sugar levels. The sensor itself is not cheap. It costs about $50 (CDN) and needs to be replaced after 6 days.<br><br>The programming available on the pump is very sophisticated in the different ways it can deliver insulin and you can have different programs based upon the time of day and the type of food you're eating. The pump data is transmitted to my computer and to an online server so that my doctor can review everything and recommend adjustments very easily.<br><br>What I would like to see in the future is to see integration with smartphone Apps. Right now, I have a few nutrition apps on my iPod to look up carbs and keep track of meals. It would be nice to be able to enter my meal in the app and then have it transmit the total carbs to the pump's wizard.
  • RE: Going wireless with diabetes treatment

    I don't normally post to forums, but as a T1 Diabetic, I thought I'd give some props to OmniPod, which I've been using for a little less than a year, having done 4 shots a day before that. A previous poster said that the electronics needed to be thrown away every other day, but the pod itself lasts 72 hours (it actually lasts 80, but it starts bugging you to be changed after 72). I'm a fairly small person who exercises regularly, so I don't use all that much insulin, meaning my only real complaint is the exact opposite of the previous poster's - because the pump has a minimum of 85 units, I end up wasting around 30 units/pod. OmniPod also does the "trickle" insulin, and the minimum amount that can be "pumped" is .05 units, which is good for someone like me that doesn't use a whole bunch of insulin (pretty much I'm child-sized in that regard). The thing I like about the OmniPod is that there's no tubing, so the infusion set can't fall out and send your blood sugar levels "through the roof." The pod is kind of egg-shaped, a little smaller than the smaller cell phones (the non-smartphone kind), and can be worn anywhere you can give yourself a shot. The cannula is spring loaded, so all you do is stick the pod on wherever you're wearing it, push a button, and it inserts the cannula for you. Look, Ma, no hands! One other nice thing about OmniPod is that they have an "EcoPod" program, where you can send your used pods to a recycler and they will recycle them. That costs $13 for 50 pods, but it's worth it to me, to soothe my eco-sensitive conscience. I have had no problems with the switch, but I've been a well-controlled diabetic ever since I was diagnosed (sorry, I had to brag). For the people looking at cost, I have insurance, but if I remember correctly, the initial system would have cost around $3800, possibly more (I only paid about $700), and 3 months of pods costs me about $175. I think the "MSRP" would be somewhere around $300 or $400, I'm not sure. Your mileage may vary, of course.