A couple of years ago, when CGM was first launched into Australia, the typical thing happened. The device company took their shiny new product to health professionals around the country, showing off their wares. There were dinners and events and showcases, all highlighting the new technology.
Now, obviously with a product like CGM which requires HCP initiation, it is important to promote the product to the people who will be getting consumers hooked up. I understand that.
Nonetheless, it was with much envy that I saw HCPs being given a trial of the product. They were connected to a CGM and given an empty pump for four days – the number of days a sensor was meant to be worn.
I was desperate to get my grubby hands on one of these. I had read all about CGM and how much people with diabetes living overseas loved it. I read about how it made people feel safer and less frightened about hypos. I learnt that it helped to level out …well…levels. It sounded exciting. I wanted to try it myself.
The HCPs on the trial I spoke to were incredibly dismissive about this technology. Over the few days they were wearing it, I heard comments such as ‘It’s making me obsessive’ or ‘I can’t stop looking at the pump and watching what’s going on’ or ‘When I calibrate it, the numbers don’t match exactly’ or ‘The infusion set insertion process is terrible. I bled everywhere!’
I heard them say repeatedly that the technology was rubbish, that it wasn’t worth the cost, and that all it would do for people with diabetes is make them more distressed and anxious about their diabetes. Plus, it hurt.
Not one of them had diabetes themselves.
I started to get annoyed. I recall sitting with one of them after hearing this pronouncement yet again, feeling quite angry. ‘You know,’ I said. ‘You don’t get to say these things. You don’t get to write off this technology after a few days of wearing it, making claims that it is pointless. This is the latest technology that we have to manage our diabetes. It’s first generation so of course it’s not perfect. The second, third and probably even fourth gen products probably won’t be perfect either. But it is a new and worthwhile tool to help us manage our condition. It is exciting. We are hopeful. You don’t get to trash it.’
I remembered this whilst siting in a session on the first day here at the American Diabetes Association Scientific Meeting. It was a ‘Meet the Expert’ session and the topic was about personal experiences of the artificial pancreas.
Kelly Close (she’s amazing – read all about her here) was talking about her experiences of being involved in trials for a couple of different artificial pancreas projects. It was fascinating hearing about the AP and her excitement about the current technology being trialled – and about what is still coming.
Her enthusiasm was obvious. In fact she actually commented on why enthusiasm and excitement need to be employed when talking about advances in technology. We need to create a buzz and have people talking and asking questions and going on trials and writing (and blogging) about our experiences.
On the panel with Kelly was Chris Aldred (better known as The Grumpy Pumper) whose role in the session was to be the one challenging all the hype. He immediately explained that he had not used the AP, and had some questions. He was skeptical about a few things.
Being skeptical is absolutely okay. We shouldn’t ever blindly accept any new treatment without asking questions, but that actually adds to the buzz. It forces people who have experience with the device to talk about the good things and its limitations. It also helps alleviate a lot of the concerns people may have.
I thought back to my experience with the launch of CGM back home. When the HCPs who were privileged to try the then-new tech were trashing the product, I wish that there had been a voice to be able to respond to those concerns. I wish that the trial of the product had been extended to people with diabetes who could see it for what it was and how its application worked in the real world. And who could share their experiences – absolutely the good and the bad – with other PWD.
That’s exactly what I did when I finally got to try CGM. You bet the first gen was clunky. It did have accuracy problems and I did bleed a little most times the sensor was inserted. But whoa! It was amazing technology for the time and made a huge difference to me. When I understood how the trends worked, I knew how to respond to them. I could address things before they became problems.
I left the AP session on the first day pretty excited and inspired. And wanting to be part of the buzz – either as a trial participant or as someone on the periphery talking about it, reading about it, hearing people speak about it.