Monday, November 21, 2011

t:slim, Wherein 'T' Stands for Totally Rad

So last week, the DOC and the tech world was all abuzz with news of Tandem Diabetes' FDA clearance on their t:slim insulin pump.  Finally, many of us felt the excitement that comes along with a pump that actually looks like a present-day technological device.  Nowadays, people are baffled when they see you with something that looks like a pager clipped to your pants.  It was as if from somewhere beyond the grave, Steve Jobs actually answered Amy's letter from 2007.

Of course, with any kind of new technical device, you have the people who would give anything to jump on the early adopter bandwagon, and you have the skeptics.  While I think I would welcome the chance to play around with one to see if I like it, I'm not sure that I'm on the early adopter wagon.  I'm not sure I'd want to be in the first wave of people to get the pump, because the first wave are always the people who get to deal with the kinks in a new device.  The last time I chose a new pump, I switched from a Medtronic to a Deltec Cozmo.  Of course, the Cozmo pump, which I love, is no longer being made.  Would I consider a t:slim when they become available?  Most certainly--it holds 300 units of insulin, and being someone who needs a larger amount (no judgements, people, you know how I feel about that) that is a vitally important feature for me.

But how will the interface react?  Will it be as cool as an iPhone or an Android device, or will it have the clunky difficulty of any number of touchscreen imitators out there?

I am also not a skeptic about the t:slim.  It's either going to work or it's going to be irritating.  This is how it goes with most devices, including insulin pumps, cell phones, MP3 players, and glucose meters.  It's surely going to meet some people's needs, but not everyone's.  This is the beauty of having freedom of choice.  Sure, I think everyone wants to know if the pump is going to work and work well.  However, I have seen one person in a blog comment note that she was worrying people might want to steal it, mistaking it for an iPhone.  I have seen folks skeptical about hooking up the USB cord to charge the pump while wearing it.  I saw one commenter to a friend's blog post calling Apple products "junk" and saying they hope their pump is better than that.

Here are my responses to these 3 skeptical points of view:

1.)  Stealing:  If your pump gets stolen, I'm sure that is covered by your warranty.  No diabetes device is immune to theft.  I once left my glucose meter kit on top of my clarinet case during band rehearsal in high school.  Somebody stole it, probably thinking it was a wallet.  The next day, a janitor found it sitting on top of a trashcan, and I got it back thanks to either my mother or I having reported it stolen to the high school office.  It may be a royal pain in the ass, but if someone were to ever steal your insulin pump, I'm sure you could get a backup script for Lantus and Novolog/Humalog/Apidra until your replacement pump could arrive.  It may be inconvenient, but not the end of the world. 

2.)  Charging:  A few weeks ago, I was in bed on my laptop and got the giggles.  My laptop was plugged into the wall.  Next to me on my bed was my pump, plugged into...well, me.  I was also wearing some headphones to listen to music.  Seriously, I had to laugh.  Let me map this out for you:  Wall charger inputs to laptop outputs to my headphones, insulin pump outputs insulin to my bloodstream, but it seemed like a computer connection was the next obvious step.  I was directly I was one step away from making my own closed-loop system

3.)  Junk:  I like Apple products.  I think they are good-quality and innovative, even in ways people don't realize.  Apple went touchscreen, then everybody had to have some sort of touchscreen device.  The industry speculated who would become the "iPhone killer".  Apple does not put together large-scale marketing campaigns because their products sell themselves.  Also, I would hope a medical device containing synthetic hormones pumping into a person at all times would be held to some of the highest standards for quality, even higher than those of the smartest smartphones. 

I've only had a couple of immediate doubts/questions about the t:slim pump, and those were mostly related to my personal use.  I know it's supposed to be waterproof, but I know some touchscreens don't fair well when, say, dropped into a toilet.  It will have to be made of the toughest possible materials because breaking/cracking sucks, no matter what kind of device it is.  How does the screen lock when, say, you roll over onto it in the middle of the night?  (Look, some of us sleep mostly nude.  Skin contact with the screen is a possibility.  Deal with it!)  And last but not least, how long will it take insurance companies to cover it?  I think I may be almost done with my Cozmo warranty, which makes 2012 a year of a new insulin pump if that's true.  If I want to get a t:slim, I want to know that my insurance will pay for it!

Overall, I am excited to see what this new pump is going to do for us.  Can I just say how excited I am that you can actually enter your numbers from a 10-digit keypad?  It's the little things that make me happy, really.  No more scrolling for what feels like 5 minutes for that low or high BG number.  I am anxious to find out how Tandem Diabetes intends to interact with members of the diabetes community, both online and out in the world.

And now, some very silly questions regarding the t:slim.  If my pump is more like an iPod Touch, will I be able to:

1.) Program pump tones from real MP3's?  I want it to play "Pour Some Sugar on Me" when I'm low and "Sugar Sugar" by the Archies or "Honey Honey" by Feist when I'm too high.

2.)  Play diabetes-related parody games (these are all hypothetical, but I'd love to see them) like "Angry Pancreases", "Blood Sugars with Friends" and "Free Food Ninja"?

3.)  Join #DSMA on Wednesdays by livetweeting from my pump? 

All right, Tandem.  I look forward to watching you into 2012.  I hope you guys get this right.  The entire DOC is watching you.


  1. Anonymous7:26 AM

    I have lots of reservations about this pump and, for now, am sticking with my trusty Minimed Revel. I LOVE gadgets (I upgrade my iPhone each time a new one comes out), but when it comes to a medical device, I want tried and true as opposed to snappy and cool. My Minimed revel hasn't proven me wrong and works great. Other than looking nice, I haven't seen any significantly new features offered by the t:slim as compared to the Ping or Revel.

  2. Well, as an "I need a 300u Reservoir" woman, my choices next year for a new pump are either a Revel or the t:slim, assuming it comes out in time. I am hoping for a release early in the year so I can see some reviews and get an idea for what it's really going to be like before I make a decision.

    I've had a Medtronic pump in the past (my first two pumps, actually), and while I certainly liked it, there are so many better features in my Cozmo, and I am so sad that they had to go under.

    I am just hoping the t:slim can take features like those to heart in their programming as well. Those of us who need and prefer 300u pumps have such limited choices.


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