Twelve hours after arriving in Munich, I found myself in a beautiful tree-lined side street of the city at a diabetes bloggers event coordinated by Roche Diabetes Care. Fuelled by nothing more than coffee and jet lag, I walked into a beautiful building and found myself surrounded by diabetes advocates from around Europe who were probably trying to work out why an Australian had crashed their meeting.
Firstly, a little about this group. Roche convened the blogger group a few years ago as a channel to build a relationship with PWD in Europe. (Roche has had a long history of working with consumers. I remember back in 2012 watching the Roche Diabetes Summit in awe and then trying to replicate it here with Australia’s first and only SoMe Summit.) In a very smart move, they engaged DEDOC leader and nice-guy extraordinaire Bastian Hauck to be the liaison between Roche and the community. Bastian has done a stellar job bringing together some absolutely amazing and influential advocates to be part of this work.
The group has now met a few times, and at this year’s EASD, they opened the door to an Australian (slightly less weird now that Australia is part of Eurovision, which, obviously, is the new gold standard measure of inclusiveness. First Eurovision digression.)
The first part of the afternoon session was a demonstration of the yet-to-be-released Roche CGM. A short presentation showed how the device works, with an explanation of the technology. The timeline for release of the product is later this year with launch markets being Sweden, Norway, Netherlands and Denmark.
We were then able to have a play with the device, inserting sensors into ‘fake’ skin pads and just getting an idea of the feel, size and look of it. The CGM app is completely customisable. It looks great – super clean and easy to use.
In a room of generally tech-savvy folk, you can imagine that there were a lot of opinions and feedback about the device. Most, if not all, of the participants were wearing at least one medical device – whether that be a pump, CGM or flash GM (and the slightly OTT Aussie who was wearing all three). We are obviously not the norm, but given our knowledge and experience with diabetes tech, we certainly did have a lot to say.
There were some things that people really liked about the product. Accuracy was outstanding with MARD being comparable to Dex G5. The profile of the sensor was good – about the same as – maybe slightly lower than – the G5 on my arm when compared side by side. Insertion was super-easy and definitely doable with one hand. And the tape holding the sensor in tape is, apparently, better for people with skin allergies.
But as a first generation CGM, there were some limitations that people felt would frustrate them. The lack of integration with the Roche pump, for example, was of concern – however, this will be remedied with future generations. The first gen will only be compatible with an HTC phone (in a room full of very pro-Apple people, this was not particularly well-received) but, again, this will be addressed with future releases.
Also most unwelcome was the factory-set sensor life. Seven days without the possible of restarting is very surprising. There were some murmurings in the room about this setting a new precedent that other sensor makers would follow. Given that I am currently on day 18 of my sensor and the accuracy is spot on, I’d be bloody furious if I’d had to bin it 11 days ago!
Many of us frequently complain about the waste produced with all our device consumables, and there was some concern that the single-use sensor applicator contained a lot of plastic. Look, this is something that I personally struggle with. Every time I change my Dex sensor, or put in a new pump line or cartridge, I look at what needs to go in the bin and wince. It frustrates me each time I rip open the packaging for a new Medtronic Quickset (my preferred line), a bloody little cap falls out, usually to the floor. I have been using these sets since they first were released (maybe eight or ten years?) and never – not once – have I used the cap.
I get it – we need these consumables to be sterile. And safety and avoiding infection is paramount. But still, some of us are very concerned at the landfill we are contributing to!
This discussion was very open. We were welcome to tweet, Instagram, Facebook (and blog) everything that we saw in the room, sharing it with the world. Following the demonstration, we all participated in real-time online feedback, where we commented on what we liked and disliked about the device. Our results and remarks were then shared on a screen for all to see.
Can we, for a moment, just consider how novel and out of character this is? Here is a company talking about a device that has not been released yet. And they are talking about it with a room full of over-sharers who all had screens open to various social media platforms ready to tweet, photograph and provide personal commentary. I have never seen such an open and transparent way to get feedback on a diabetes product, and the team from Roche should be absolutely commended on this approach. More please from more companies!
For the second half of the meeting we spent a most fun couple of hours where we played around with app development. My group – obviously the best – created an app that linked our CGM app with a juice machine to respond to low glucose levels. It also turned on bedroom lights if we were low overnight, to help wake us up. And if the wailing alarms of the app were not cancelled within 15 minutes, an ambulance was called to come and make sure we were okay. I know! Brilliant, right?!
Overall, this was definitely a valuable afternoon learning about new product and also being given the opportunity to meet with some very smart and active diabetes advocates. You bet we were there to be told about Roche’s new CGM, but that was only part of the event and no one in the room is so naïve they don’t know it. But the chance to share ideas and projects and plan for truly global work together outside the device company space was also achieved.
POSTSCRIPT and DISCLOSURES
I’m going to ignore the online discussions that seem to pop up at any conference where PWD manage to score an invite…. Actually, who am I kidding, I’m not. Because I am a little sick and tired of the inevitable complaining and suspicion and passive aggressive comments. I’m a huge advocate for PWD being invited to HCP conferences (I may have written about it once or twice here). For us to get here, we need financial assistance because travel is expensive as is conference registration. So when pharma or device companies offer to bring PWD together to engage in a session they are running – and also provide us with access to the conference, then you bet I am going to think it’s a great idea.
Transparency is important and on this little blog, I will always disclose any arrangements, support, funding or product in place with any company.
So…my disclosures? Well in regard to Roche, none really. I don’t use any Roche products at the moment. I have in the past used their meters, which I have funded myself. I have been an invited speaker at the Roche Educators Day at the ADS-ADEA conference two years running now. And I wrote and disclosed all about that at the time here and here.
Roche did not contribute to my travel or accommodation costs at all to attend EASD this year. They did provide me with press registration, but I had already organised my own, as I do for all conferences I attend. Oh – and they did invite me to a dinner after the blogger event, but jet lag had kicked in so I politely declined. There was no expectation from Roche that I would write about the event (or comment during it). They don’t own my words, I do. But I am incredibly grateful that they are engaging consumers in this way. So thank you to Ute and the team so very much!
As for my disclosures for attending EASD? For the third time, they are all here.