My Animas Vibe #PumpTrial

Disclosure:
Since mid-2012, I have received product and supplies gratis from Animas (a Ping insulin pump with monthly supplies). In December 2014, I was provided with the Animas Vibe system, a Dexcom G4 Platinum sensor, and a Diasend kit to evaluate at no charge to me. Following are my impressions about the product as I experienced it. Animas has not seen or vetted this post prior to me publishing it.

Dec. 19 I started a trial of the Animas Vibe insulin pump:

Since the start of the trial I enjoyed seeing a few small things that I had longed having on my pump. But I will start with the bigger things that most PWD who are not on the Vibe may be wondering about.

THE BIG THING: Dexcom-integration
I am fairly open about my personal preference towards the Dexcom G4 CGM given its accuracy vs. other CGM systems in the market. So any pump that integrates with it I favor over others because CGM has been a diabetes technology that has saved my life countless times. While Tandem is on track to integrate with the Dexcom G4 next, and Asante will do so with the G5 further down the road, at this point the Animas Vibe is the only insulin pump that integrates with the Dexcom CGM.

Seeing on the same screen the glucose trend arrows along with the Insulin On Board (IOB): priceless!

 
A “chubby” downside:
The transmitter you use with the Animas Vibe is the “chubby” G4 (see it on the left, below), not the slim one (on the right, below). Not a HUGE deal… just a HUGE transmitter. Get it? 😉

Update (Jan. 6, 2015):
Heard this from fellow #DOC members, Melissa Lee and Mike Hoskins:

 
An upside:
As Kerri pointed out, you can pair the same transmitter to your Animas Vibe AND to one or more Dexcom G4 receivers at the same time.

 
A potential “downside” down the road:
Dexcom has gotten us a bit spoiled in recent months with the release of the Dexcom Share and the 505 algorithm, which increased their accuracy even more (although you can only upgrade the Dexcom receiver, connecting it to a PC).

There’s no doubt that Dexcom will continue to innovate, and by the time the Dexcom G5 is approved, unfortunately it will not be compatible with the Animas Vibe. Dexcom is supposed to submit the G5 to FDA any day now, so I am hopeful that the Animas team is working diligently to keep up with the pace of innovation, in order to make sure that there is not such a long wait for an Animas pump that can take full advantage of the latest in CGM at that point.

THE SMALLER THINGS…
Most of the small improvements on the Animas Vibe pump did away with a number of annoying “features” that I could have totally done without, and welcome with arms wide open:

The first one you can witness on the Vine video below… You REALLY cannot blink, otherwise you will miss it:

Basically, with the Animas Ping you have to press the UP arrow all the way to the total bolus you want to administer, which can be fairly annoying if you are giving yourself anything over 1 unit of insulin. With the Animas Vibe, you only need to press the UP arrow once and the calculated amount of insulin gets populated on the Bolus Total screen. Yay to small improvements! 🙂

The SECOND improvement which I was VERY happy to see only becomes apparent when you change an infusion site or a battery. When you do either one of these things on an Animas Ping, your combo bolus default values (duration and Normal/Extended percentages) get reset. I cannot describe how much this “feature” has driven me nuts since I’ve been on the Animas. While, I didn’t have the chance to test it with a battery change, I did see the improvement with site changes. Now, your combo bolus default values do NOT get reset with site changes! Yay to more small improvements! 😀

There’s one lost feature that will be missed by many: the Animas Vibe does NOT have the companion OneTouch that doubles as BG meter and remote. It is a very unfortunate loss that takes value away from the product. Though I can live with this shortcoming, I’ve read about women who wear their pump on their bra or caregivers (parents as well as spouses of PWD) for whom this feature will constitute a deal-breaker. Again, this is an area where I am hopeful the feature will be restored with an eye on innovation not simply catching up.

There’s ONE last small improvement that exposed me to a feature of the Animas pump that I didn’t know about. Ironically it only became apparent as a serendipitous result of remote meter no longer being available: I am referring to the Food database. As it turns out (not sure why it was so, but clearly it buried the feature) the Food database was only accessible through the BG meter remote: you could not access it through the pump. Hence, why I never used it (or even knew it was there, although I did get trained on the pump): I only bolus from the BG meter/remote for BG. For carbs (the place in the navigation menu where the Food database is found) I always bolus from the pump.

 
There you have it! That’s my experience with the Animas Vibe during my two-week trial. Let me know if you have any questions: I will do my best to answer them. Beyond the Animas, I HIGHLY recommend you read Melissa Lee’s super-thorough comparison of all pumps on the market, that she published a few weeks ago on ASweetLife.

3 Secret Weapons for Nonprofits

As you may know by now, the past seven years I have been President of Diabetes Hands Foundation, a Berkeley-based nonprofit that aims to connect, empower, and mobilize people touched by diabetes for positive change, so that nobody living with diabetes may feel alone.

In the process of growing the organization, we have encountered a number of valuable tools and resources that have been instrumental in support of our mission. I wanted to share three of them that I have been meaning to write about for some time:

1) Techsoup
Nonprofits need software. But software can come in at a steep price, specially packages like Adobe PhotoShop and others that are important as part of creating and maintaining your nonprofit brand. Enter Techsoup!

They aim to connect nonprofits, charities, or public libraries with tech products and services, plus learning resources to make informed decisions about technology. Their free resources are available to all users. Once registered and qualified with TechSoup, nonprofits and libraries can access donated and discounted products and services from partners like Microsoft, Adobe, Cisco, Intuit, and Symantec.

2) Nonprofits Insurance Alliance Group
Nonprofits (as any other business) also need insurance. The Nonprofit Insurance Alliance Group provides a stable source of liability insurance tailored to the specialized needs of the nonprofit sector, and assist their members with programs, tools and training that minimize their risk, protect their clients, employees and volunteers. Not only are they tailored for nonprofits: they are more affordable than other alternatives.

3) Hispanic Foundation of Silicon Valley
One of their programs is the Latino Board Leadership Academy, which is a bootcamp of sorts, that trains Hispanic executives in Silicon Valley to become the best possible nonprofit board members. We came to their 2014 “Nonprofit Match Night” and loved it. Indeed, we recruited one of our current board members that night! They interviewed me about my impressions on the event:

Dexcom Share: Product Review

Unpacking the Dexcom share reminded me of the same level of excitement that I had when I got most of the Apple devices: a clean experience that builds anticipation and contributes to a continued positive experience.

Let me proceed my comment by indicating that my experience with my Dexcom CGM is unlike any other I have had with any othe diabetes device in my life, including my insulin pumps (I have been on two in the past decade) and a variety of glucose meters I have used since 2002. I have lost track of the number of times my Dexcom has saved my life: being awaken by or alerting my wife of a dangerously low blood sugar has literally averted disaster on countless occasions.

So naturally I was very happy when I heard that the Dexcom Share had been given the green light by FDA in the US. This setup consists of:

  • A docking station that charges your Dexcom G4 while it connects via Bluetooth with your iOS device (an Android version is in the works, as I understand).
  • The Dexcom Share app that allows you to pair your Dexcom receiver with a Dexcom account “in the cloud” so your data can be shared with those you want to. This app is available through the Apple App Store.
  • The Dexcom Follow app that allows those whom you want to share your Dexcom’s 24-hr window of data along with a few alerts for lows or highs, to Se the data. This app too is available through the App Store.

Getting up and running is quite straightforward (it took me no more than 10 minutes or so), and I felt the process should be fairly intuitive for anyone that has paired Bluetooth devices or paired remotes to receivers. Here’s how I found the experience with each of the pieces of the setup.

THE DOCK

I found the design sleek, though perhaps a bit bulky. You can have it standing up or sideways (with convenient anti-slippery things below) to fit different spaces on your night table.

The principle that it belongs on the night table is an interesting one because it is mostly set up to be parked somewhere, since it has to be plugged to a power source to work. My friend Kelly and her crew made me realize that you could take the Share on the road as long as you can plug it to a portable USB power source, like a Mophie, but that is more of a hack (it’s fairly bulky of a combo) than the way the product appears to be designed for.

The Dexcom Share dock with the Receiver in, powered by a Mophie battery pack.

The Dexcom Share dock with the Receiver in, powered by a Mophie battery pack.

The only annoying thing about the dock was the brightness of the LEDs (a green one indicating power, and a blue one indicating Bluetooth connection, which was VERY bright at night). I may end up putting an opaque tape on top of them, because otherwise there is no way to have the Dexcom screen facing you without being “blinded” by the intensity of the LEDs. Well, maybe not blinded, but they are very bright indeed!

THE DEXCOM SHARE APP

As soon as I fired up the Share app (as instructed in the quick setup instructions in the inside cover of the box), I was greeted by GlucoMonster. Although admittedly cute, I couldn’t help but being immediately reminded of the monsters from MySugr, plus the plushy character (whose role is to signal of there are connectivity problems with your Dexcom via the Share dock) doesn’t really resonate strongly with the Dexcom brand for me. Don’t ask me why: I would honestly do away with the little fellow (nothing personal, dude!)

GlucoMonster

Getting the serial number typed in to pair the app to the receiver proved to be challenging in two ways:

  1. I forgot to write it down (as instructed on the same instructions) before plugging the Dexcom to the dock. I ended up pulling it out and taking a picture of it. It may be a nice (though tiny) future improvement to move the serial number sticker to the opposite side of the receiver so it sticks out visibly outside the dock when the receiver is in it.
  2. After routine use (wear and tear) after years, the sticker can be hard to read. Maybe the app could sense any nearby Dexcom receivers/docks, similarly to how you pair Bluetooth devices?

After the S/N was in, it was very straightforward to complete the process, but I admit that I was missing being able to SEE the CGM data within the same app. I gave up, realizing the Share app was designed to do just that: share the data. So I downloaded the Dexcom Follow app, to get a feel for it, and see that part of the experience too. But not without first inviting my wife to follow my numbers through it too.

THE DEXCOM FOLLOW APP

The experience my wife had with the email she received inviting her to follow me was clean and straightforward: I picture this will be the experience of most people that get this invitation.

The invitation message lto a new follower looks very straightforward.

The invitation message lto a new follower looks very straightforward.

I fully anticipate the need to make the invitation process a bit more sophisticated in the not too distant future, as people change phones, delete apps, etc. which hopefully won’t mean that they need to create a new Dexcom user account to follow someone else every time they change iOS devices. Yet, any observations to improve the user experience and the setup flow PALE when compared to my wife’s joy over being able to see my glucose data remotely. I travel a lot for work, and this is something that has always worried her.

I eventually set up my own Dexcom Follow app, to be able to view my own numbers on my phone: it honestly felt odd, and I would definitely envision a more integrated experience for people whose phones are both sharing and following their own data. Or maybe it’s not a frequent use case, but to me that flow in the experience felt a bit odd.

Now that my wife and I are both setup to see my CGM readings for the past 24 hours, we are VERY happy!!

Disclaimer:
I own under 100 stocks of Dexcom, and I received my initial Dexcom kit and the Dexcom Share free of charge. The opinion I express here is entirely my own and hasn’t been vetted by Dexcom. All they asked of me was to share my opinion about the Share.