Technology for Diabetics – What Promises Does it Come With?

Continuous glucose monitoring

By Matt Schmidt

Diabetes is a difficult condition to deal with especially if you have nobody who shares the struggle with you. Being diagnosed with diabetes can feel like life has changed completely and you may not know what the right way is to manage the disease and what options are available.

Fortunately for us, new innovations in technology continue to keep up the promise of making diabetes management easier and more efficient and they’re constantly progressing at a rapid pace.

The once-used dreadful finger pricking for diabetes check has already become history and closed loop systems have taken over to automate insulin delivery with a very deserving title – ‘the self-driving car of diabetes management’.

Yes, it’s true that keeping up with the latest innovations in technology can be quite difficult. This is why we’ve included the opinions of experts on the most promising new diabetes management devices.

We’re looking not only at devices that are impressive to tech experts but which also have the potential to motivate proactive diabetics who want to make their diabetes self-management easier in order to improve and simplify their lives.

Continuous glucose monitoring or CGM

For many diabetics, a blood glucose meter is an essential element in diabetes management. The conventional meters use the finger pricking method with a drop of blood to determine blood glucose levels. On the other hand, the latest technology is the CGM or continuous glucose monitor which checks blood glucose levels day and night.

Abbott’s CGM, FreeStyle Libre 2 comes with an app for iPhones. So instead of using a reader, you can simply use the FreeStyle Libre 2 app to scan the sensor that comes with the device. With this new innovation, you can say goodbye to the conventional finger prick to check blood glucose level. What you do instead is simply wear the sensor on the back of your upper arm and read the blood glucose levels directly. As per manufacture features, you can even use the sensor for 14 days continuously.

Dexcom D6 is yet another CGM option that sends your glucose readings directly to your smart phone. Again, no finger pricking involved here (unless the readings don’t match expectations or symptoms).

All diabetics are happy not having to deal with finger pricks anymore. While the CGM technology is now aimed at diabetics with Type 1 diabetes first, it will soon be prevalent among those with Type 2 diabetes too.

One positive from the emergence in CGM use, is insurance companies are taking notice. Certain health and life insurance providers may consider you for discounted premiums, if you’re using a CGM and your diabetes is under control. It’s quite possible to achieve discounts as high as 15% annually. Life insurance for diabetics is more expensive generally, and these discounts do add up over time.

Closed loop system or connected CGM-insulin pumps

The world’s first hybrid closed-loop system for insulin delivery was considered one of Cleveland Clinic’s top 10 medical innovations in the year 2018. It is also nicknamed as the ‘artificial pancreas.’ This is an automated device that delivers insulin thereby making Type 1 diabetes treatment simpler and easier.

The current expert-favorite in the closed loop insulin delivery system is the Medtronic Minimed 670G system. There’s a direct communication between the insulin pump and the CGM device which ensures a stable blood glucose level. With this new innovation, patients no longer have to use the open-loop system where users need to read the information from the CGM and then use this information to determine the amount of insulin that needs to be injected.

Chris Stocker of The Life of a Diabetic notes “Currently the Medtronic MiniMed670G is primarily used by people in the United States. However there are on going trials to assess the safety and effectiveness of this form of technology. This closed loop system should be available to most people in the world in twelve to eighteen months.”

Further advancement in the closed loop system can be seen in the Medtronic Minimed 780G system where the insulin pump gets autocorrected dosing through the CGM. This updated product expands on the 670G model but provides the following:

  • Anticipates insulin needs. Adjusts insulin delivery. Corrects highs automatically while helping to protect you from lows
  • Self-adjusts insulin delivery to your needs, up to 288 times per day.
  • Automatically corrects highs, while helping to prevent lows.

Insulin administration through smart pens

Smart pens are the latest devices for insulin delivery and they can help immensely simplify your insulin administration routine. These smart pens are connected to smartphone apps that calculate and track dosages and come with other useful features like alerts, reminders and reports. Instead of using vials or disposable pens, these smart pens are reusable and they use prefilled cartridges instead.

Smart pens come with a lot of potential in the diabetes market because they’re easy to use, affordable and have a number of benefits for improving diabetes self-care.

Medtronic’s smart pen, InPen is one of the expert favorite new technology that sends dosage information to the mobile app via Bluetooth. It is reusable and takes care of the dosage tracking and calculations so that diabetics don’t need to do this mentally. This also eliminates any room for errors and frees up mind space.

Medtronics states that the InPen smart pen is compatible with cartridges from different brands like Lilly Humalog U-100 3.0mL, Novo Nordisk Fiasp U-100 3.0 and Novo Nordisk Novolog U-100 3.0mL. It uses detachable single-use pen needles and allows users to adjust the dosage anywhere between 0.5 and 30 units with increments of ½ unit.

How to get the most out of the latest diabetes technology

The biggest advantage of diabetes technology is that it offers personalization in diabetes self-management. Speak to a doctor who is well-versed with the technology or a licensed diabetes educator to understand the different systems available and figure out what works best for you. With advancements in FitBit’s and other wearable tech, many of these devices can be paired with them.

A simple example is that even though the closed loop system or artificial pancreas offers amazing features that can revolutionize diabetes care, it might not be apt for you if you want to manipulate your insulin dosage and not want to give up control.

On the contrary, a diabetic who has always found it difficult to meet glucose goals because of poor management, despite sincere efforts, might find this system extremely useful. A closed loop system is also especially useful if you have hypoglycemia often and aren’t able to control it well.

It’s also essential to consider the affordability element when choosing different devices for diabetes management. Some of these may not be covered by your insurance provider. Going for an expensive CGM might be only a waste of money especially if you’re able to manage well without it and it does not get covered by insurance.

The bottom line

Your preference becomes crucial no matter how advanced diabetes technology may become. Dealing with diabetes is a personal journey. Hence, it’s essential that you have a thorough discussion with your primary health care provider to understand the workings of different devices and see where they fit into your needs. Also, it’s best to have regular discussions to keep updated as the devices evolve.

Ultimately, the idea is to make the struggle of diabetes management easier, simpler and more effective and where technology can help, we should make the most of it. We all know nothing is easy, when living with a type of diabetes. However, advancement in diabetes technology will make your life a little bit easier.

About the Author

Matt Schmidt is a licensed life insurance agent and co-founder of Diabetes 365, a digital life insurance brokerage founded in 2011. They have helped thousands of people with Diabetes find an affordable life insurance policy. He’s been featured in Forbes, Entrepreneur, The Simple Dollar, GoBanking Rates, MSN, Insurancenews.net, and Yahoo Finance.

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