Last week, Australian social and mainstream media was abuzz with exciting news of a diabetes breakthrough. This filtered through to international media.
Labelled as an artificial pancreas, the new device was covered in online and print newspapers, as well as television news bulletins. The reason for the excitement at home was because Australia is the launch market for this new technology.
Well, yes and no.
The device in question was not really an artificial pancreas. Rather, it is the next generation integrated pump/CGM system to be launched globally.
Technology advances are really important and we should get excited about them, and their promise of improving the lives of people with diabetes.
But reporting honestly and correctly is also really important.
Let’s be clear about the device that was launched last week. It is a pump with a CGM. The real advance is that together they have the potential to predict hypos and turn off insulin delivery, thus (hopefully) preventing hypos.
This is, indeed, an advance in technology.
This is not, however, an artificial pancreas.
There are a number of problems when diabetes advancements are not communicated effectively and correctly. Firstly, the way the reports read last week, this technology would eradicate hypos completely. As far as hopes for diabetes go, living hypo-free is surely something we would all dearly love.
But while this tech MAY help in reducing hypos, it’s certainly not going to eradicate them.
There are still problems with sensor accuracy that need to be addressed before we can be comfortable in saying that CGM technology (whether purely as a ‘warning system’ for impending hypos or being combined with a pump that will switch of insulin administration) removes the risk (and associated fear) of low blood sugar.
Whilst this technology is a step in the right direction, it is not an artificial pancreas. It is not the holy grail.
Diabetes still needs attention, still needs research, still needs funding, still needs donations. We are not there yet, and any report that even suggests that is, I believe, detrimental to continued efforts looking to further improve diabetes management.
All of us who are communicating in any way about diabetes have a responsibility to be truthful, honest and, as much as possible, devoid of sensationalism.
Get it right when we are taking about it and hopefully the mainstream media – who, let’s be honest, have an incredibly rudimentary knowledge base when it comes to diabetes – will hopefully follow suit.
I am really excited about the potential of this new pump and GGM combination and I am fully aware that it may be of significant benefit to many people living with diabetes. I know just how beneficial CGM technology is.
But tell it like it is. Report responsibly. And keep the understanding of what living with diabetes – and the technology we use – real.
This is just so beautiful! Enjoy for your Friday and have a great weekend.