It’s probably not often that the delivery of a new insulin pump prompts a diabetic to upload a YouTube video of her breathlessly unwrapping the box.
Over the nearly 8 minute video, she repeatedly gushes over the device and its features.
“Oh my gosh, I am so excited,” says Sarah who goes by the username CalmIsAJoke on YouTube.
The object of her devotion is the new t:slim insulin delivery system from San Diego-based Tandem Diabetes Care. As the first FDA-cleared touchscreen insulin pump, it isno ordinary medical device.Not only does it boast a touchscreen, the display is also in color with the goal of creating an user friendly interface and is the first insulin pump with a micro USB port and rechargeable batteries. The micro USB port facilitates easy data uploads to t:connect, Tandem Diabetes’ data management software.
Regular pumps, by comparison look like pagers, require batteries to hold charges and have clunkier data management software, said Tandem CEO Kim Blickenstaff.
That’s because they stand apart from the world of consumer technology, the world of iPhones which commands a sizeable number of devotees.
“When we started talking to people what we found that that the consumer device world had changed the way they evaluated [medical] devices,” Blickenstaff said in a recent interview. “Their insulin pump was locked back in the 1980s and 1990s with the user interface that was archaic; it was designed in the era of pagers and they just expressed this enormous technology gap between everything else that they used and their insulin pump.They were ashamed to pull out their insulim pump because it looks like something they would see in a hospital.”
But Blickenstaff believes that the t:slim is not simply beautiful on the outside. It delivers insulin in a different manner too. He described conventional insulin pumps as smaller versions of a hospital IV, where the syringe holds the full reservoir of the insulin and then pushes out the contents in small doses.
The t-slim, on the other hand has a proprietary delivery system where the patient is not directly connected to the entire 300-unit reservoir of insulin. The insulin is kept in a bag while the delivery chamber takes insulin from the pump and delivers it to the person.
But it’s not just patients who seem to be happy with their new t:slims. Blickenstaff said that physicians who will prescribe the product have been impressed too. Aside from just the cool factor, Blickenstaff believes it’s because of the ease of use.
“This will have such an impact on their practice in terms of reducing training times,” he said. “Diabetes educators on staff put in an enormous number of hours to try to get a person literate on using the pump and in using the advanced features to get the best therapy. ”
And having physicians on board may help the company take market share away from the likes of Medtronic, Johnson and Johnson and Smiths Medical.
A recent round of funding that brought in $36 million will help to ramp up manufacturing and sales efforts for the product which only began shipping in September. The company has “several hundred orders” and has fulfilled “a couple of hundred already,” he said. Every year 35,000 people start using pumps and Tandem hopes to have a t:slim in as many of them as possible.
As happy and excited as patients are, at least one reviewer, Melissa Lee, has already has some suggestions for improvement that include offering more than one charging cable. And yet even she concludes her review with these glowing terms.
I have consistently said two statements over the years when talking to people with diabetes about our available choices in regard to insulin pumps: “There is not abadpump out there; they all get the job done.” And “No one pump has everything I’m looking for.”
I’m optimistic that I might be able to stop saying the latter.