In the diabetes world, one thing is perfectly clear, technology is everything to managing diabetes and sustaining a long life. Whether you are a type 1 or type 2, all of us rely on blood glucose meter technology as a basic life line for living with diabetes. After that, it all comes down to whether you are on oral insulin or injected. For many people living with diabetes(PWD) and taking injected insulin, after bg meters, pump technology comes as the next necessity for a healthy, well control life.
These days there is a lot of focus on the artificial pancreas. In my opinion, the artificial pancreas equals diabetes driven by technology and it is being hailed as a bridge to a cure. To make this possible, we need faster acting insulin, redundant sensors for continuous glucose monitoring and pumps with algorithms that increase and decrease insulin flow. There is a tremendous flow of information on JDRF's push for the Artificial Pancreas, but there is another company that invested more than20 years of research in this area and developed technologies that are important incremental steps toward the artificial pancreas. That company is Medtronic.
Medtronic is the leader in insulin pumps, but that is not where they began. Medtronic was founded in 1949 as a medical device repair shop. In 1957, their first Medtronic product was a battery powered cardiac pacemaker, inspired by the metronome for music. The heart was their focus and still remains the financial mainstay of the company. MiniMed, an Alfred Mann Company that brought the first insulin pump to the market back in 1983, was acquired by Medtronic in 2001, forming the diabetes business unit of Medtronic.
In 2005, I started on a Medtronic minimed 522 pump. Going on the pump was a joint decision with my CDE and my endocrinologist hoping a pump would allow me to reduce nighttime lows. My A1c was 6.8, which was good, but the consensus was that a pump would bring it down closer to 6, by reducing my 3-4 night time lows per week.
The choice of the Medtronic minimed pump was it's reliability, but probably the biggest reason, at the time, was the therapy management software Medtronic developed called Carelink. Medtronic had cleverly worked out a deal with One Touch meters, so that you could wireless store your bg data in the pump and then using a usb cord (now a wireless system) you could download all the data from your pump, (bolus/basal records, corrections, adjustments and blood glucose readings) to a server (now called a cloud). At the time, they were the innovators of using the web based technology and creating a method where patients could give their doctors and CDEs their password to their personal data on the CareLink site and share information without violating HIPAA rules.
In the 6 years since my introduction to Medtronic, many companies have caught up to Medtronic's early brilliance of system integration to help patients handle data. But more importantly, Medtronic has not slowed on the innovation side of diabetes management!
On May 24th 2011, the ADA announced new research grants that will study anonymous data from Medtronic's CareLink database to learn more about the impact of management tools for people living with diabetes. Researchers will have aggregated data of over 200,000 individuals and some of those records are years of work in progress! From Medtronic's point of view, by looking at this anonymous data researchers will be able to daily routine and review behaviors that will yield better information to determine what would be beneficial industry standards and guidelines for physicians caring for patients.
But this is all part of a larger picture that involves the evolution of diabetes management and steps towards an artificial pancreas. I recently had the opportunity to talk with Dr. Francine Kaufmann, Chief Medical Officer for Medtronic and over the next few weeks, I will be writing a series of shareposts about some of the conversations we shared. Stay tuned!
Published On: June 20, 2011